Motivated by the significant amount of successful collaborative problem solving activity on the Web, we ask: Can the accumulated information propagation behavior on the Web be conceived as a giant machine, and reasoned about accordingly? In this paper we elaborate a thesis about the computational capability embodied in information sharing activities that happen on the Web, which we term socio-technical computation, reflecting not only explicitly conditional activities but also the organic potential residing in information on the Web.
Neither our evolutionary past, nor our pre-literate culture, has prepared humanity for the use of technology to provide records of the past, records which in many context become normative for memory. The demand that memory be true, rather than useful or pleasurable, has changed our social and psychological under-standing of ourselves and our fellows. The current vogue for lifelogging, and the rapid proliferation of digital memory-supporting technologies, may accelerate this change, and create dilemmas for policymakers, designers and social thinkers.
The paper attempts to establish the importance of addressing what Chalmers calls the ‘easy problems’ of consciousness, at the expense of the ‘hard problem’. One pragmatic argument and two philosophical arguments are presented to defend this approach to consciousness, and three major theories of consciousness are criticized in this light. Finally, it is shown that concentration on the easy problems does not lead to eliminativism with respect to consciousness.
A conceptual analysis of trust in terms of trustworthiness is set out, where trustworthiness is the property of an agent that she does what she claims she will do, and trust is an attitude taken by an agent to another, that the former believes that the latter is trustworthy. This analysis is then used to explore issues in the deployment of trustworthy digital systems online. The ideas of a series of philosophers from the Enlightenment – Hobbes, Burke, Rousseau, Hume, Smith (...) and Kant – are examined in the light of this exploration to suggest how we might proceed in the Digital Enlightenment to ensure that systems are both trustworthy and trusted. (shrink)
In recent work MacPherson argues that the standard method of modeling belief logically, as a necessity operator in a modal logic, is doomed to fail. The problem with normal modal logics as logics of belief is that they treat believers as "ideal" in unrealistic ways (i.e., as omnidoxastic); however, similar problems re-emerge for candidate non-normal logics. The authors argue that logics used to model belief in artificial intelligence (AI) are also flawed in this way. But for AI systems, omnidoxasticity is (...) impossible because of their finite nature, and this fact can be exploited to produce operational models of fallible belief. The relevance of this point to various philosophical views about belief is discussed. (shrink)
This book argues that the novelist Joseph Conrad's work speaks directly to us in a way that none of his contemporaries can. Conrad’s scepticism, pessimism, emphasis on the importance and fragility of community, and the difficulties of escaping our history are important tools for understanding the political world in which we live. He is prepared to face a future where progress is not inevitable, where actions have unintended consequences, and where we cannot know the contexts in which we act. _Heart (...) of Darkness_ uncovers the rotten core of the Eurocentric myth of imperialism as a way of bringing enlightenment to 'native peoples’ – lessons which are relevant once more as the Iraq debacle has undermined the claims of liberal democracy to universal significance. The result can hardly be called a political programme, but Conrad’s work is clearly suggestive of a sceptical conservatism of the sort described by the author in his 2005 book _After Blair: Conservatism Beyond Thatcher_. The difficult part of a Conradian philosophy is the profundity of his pessimism – far greater than Oakeshott, with whom Conrad does share some similarities. Conrad’s work poses the question of how far we as a society are prepared to face the consequences of our ignorance. (shrink)
William Whewell (1794–1866), polymathic Victorian scientist, philosopher, historian, and educator, was one of the great neologists of the nineteenth century. Although Whewell's name is little remembered today except by professional historians and philosophers of science, researchers in many scientific fields work each day in a world that Whewell named. "Miocene" and "Pliocene," "uniformitarian" and "catastrophist," "anode" and "cathode," even the word "scientist" itself—all of these were Whewell coinages. Whewell is particularly important to students of the historical sciences for another word (...) he coined, one that was unfortunately not as successful as many of his others because it is difficult to pronounce. This word, "palaetiology," was the name Whewell gave to the class of sciences that are concerned with historical causation: the class we might today refer to as historical sciences. Although the disciplines Whewell included under the heading of palaetiology might seem to cut across conventional academic boundaries of his day and ours—his exemplary palaetiological sciences were geology and comparative philology—all these fields may be examined together, Whewell argued, because of their common interest in reconstructing the past. ¶ This paper is an essay in the palaetiological sciences, dedicated to Whewell on the bicentennial of his birth, an essay that examines some of the principles, maxims, and rules of procedure that these sciences have all in common. Its first purpose is to demonstrate the continuing validity of Whewell's classification of these sciences through a study of historical representation in three different palaetiological fields: systematics, historical linguistics, and textual transmission. Its second purpose is to continue the development of an extended analogy between historical representation and cartographic representation that I began in an earlier paper (O'Hara, 1993, Systematic Biology), an analogy that makes especially clear the common representational practices that are found throughout palaetiology. (shrink)
138 titles across a wide range of scholarly publications illustrate the conceptual affinities that connect the palaetiological sciences of biological systematics, historical linguistics, and stemmatics. These three fields all have as their central objective the reconstruction of evolutionary "trees of history" that depict phylogenetic patterns of descent with modification among species, languages, and manuscripts. All three fields flourished in the nineteenth century, underwent parallel periods of quiescence in the early twentieth century, and in recent decades have seen widespread parallel revivals. (...) "Tree thinking" (O'Hara, 1988) is now standard within evolutionary biology, and the unity of what William Whewell called palaetiology is being once again appreciated by scholars and scientists in many fields. (shrink)
In the eighteenth century the category of the aesthetic sought to bridge the gap between the prevalent dualities of Cartesian thought: art and science, history and science, prejudice and truth. This special issue of _boundary 2_ addresses current debates about the status of art in the context of global modernity. The range of arguments represented here cover a broad historical scope—from Cartesianism to present-day global modernity—of cultural discourse on the aesthetic to bring a focus to contemporary discussions of the corollary (...) concepts of beauty, virtue, taste, and truth. These essays present a rich and provocative account of the place of the aesthetic in late-twentieth-century culture. Included in this volume are considerations of the relation between theories of art and the avant-garde; art’s relation to cognition; the aesthetic as history; the aesthetic as a unique access to modernity; and its impact on problems of identity formation, ideology, and resistances to the institutional powers inherent in dominant social formations. _Contributors. _Charles Altieri, Peter Burger, David Carroll, Anthony J. Cascardi, Howard Caygill, Allen Dunn, Eric Gans, Agnes Heller, Ronald A. T. Judy, Marie-Rose Logan, Daniel T. O’Hara, Donald E. Pease, Alan Singer. (shrink)
Discussions of the theory and practice of systematics and evolutionary biology have heretofore revolved around the views of philosophers of science. I reexamine these issues from the different perspective of the philosophy of history. Just as philosophers of history distinguish between chronicle (non-interpretive or non-explanatory writing) and narrative history (interpretive or explanatory writing), I distinguish between evolutionary chronicle (cladograms, broadly construed) and narrative evolutionary history. Systematics is the discipline which estimates the evolutionary chronicle. ¶ Explanations of the events described in (...) the evolutionary chronicle are not of the covering-law type described by philosophers of science, but rather of the how-possibly, continuous series, and integrating types described by philosophers of history. Pre-evolutionary explanations of states (in contrast to chroniclar events) are still widespread in "evolutionary" biology, however, because evolutionary chronicles are in general poorly known. To the extent that chronicles are known, the narrative evolutionary histories based on them are structured like conventional historical narratives, in that they treat their central subjects as ontological individuals. This conventional treatment is incorrect. The central subjects of evolutionary narratives are clades, branched entities which have some of the properties of individuals and some of the properties of classes. Our unconscious treatment of the subjects of evolutionary narratives as individuals has been the cause of erroneous notions of progress in evolution, and of views that taxa "develop" ontogenetically in ways analogous to individual organisms. We must rewrite our narrative evolutionary histories so that they properly represent the branching nature of evolution, and we must reframe our evolutionary philosophies so that they properly reflect the historical nature of our subject. (shrink)
This book is an extended and provocative exercise in describing pragmatism’s past and in attempting to chart a course for its future. This description is not merely a history of philosophy or paean to American thought. It is rather a re-description that draws attention to a neglected and potentially fruitful theme in pragmatism, one that Koopman has termed “transitionalism” for its focus on historicity and temporality. One of the enduring features of pragmatism is its commitment to the revisability of truth (...) claims and even to revising its own methods and aims. If pragmatism encourages philosophers to revise old ways of thinking, then pragmatists are people who expect important ideas and institutions to develop .. (shrink)
Two new modes of thinking have spread through systematics in the twentieth century. Both have deep historical roots, but they have been widely accepted only during this century. Population thinking overtook the field in the early part of the century, culminating in the full development of population systematics in the 1930s and 1940s, and the subsequent growth of the entire field of population biology. Population thinking rejects the idea that each species has a natural type (as the earlier essentialist view (...) had assumed), and instead sees every species as a varying population of interbreeding individuals. Tree thinking has spread through the field since the 1960s with the development of phylogenetic systematics. Tree thinking recognizes that species are not independent replicates within a class (as earlier group thinkers had tended to see them), but are instead interconnected parts of an evolutionary tree. It lays emphasis on the explanation of evolutionary events in the context of a tree, rather than on the states exhibited by collections of species, and it sees evolutionary history as a story of divergence rather than a story of development. Just as population thinking gave rise to the new field of population biology, so tree thinking is giving rise to the new field of phylogenetic biology. (shrink)
This chapter compares the social behaviour of human hunter-gatherers with that of the better-studied chimpanzee species, Pan troglodytes, in an attempt to pinpoint the unique features of human social evolution. Although hunter-gatherers and chimpanzees living in central Africa have similar body weights, humans live at much lower population densities due to their greater dependence on predation. Human foraging parties have longer duration than those of chimpanzees, lasting hours rather than minutes, and a higher level of mutual dependence, through the division (...) of labour between men and women ; which is in turn related to pair-bonding, and meat sharing to reduce the risk of individual hunters' failure on any particular day. The band appears to be a uniquely human social unit that resolves the tension between greater dispersion and greater interdependence. (shrink)
Accounts of the evolutionary past have as much in common with works of narrative history as they do with works of science. Awareness of the narrative character of evolutionary writing leads to the discovery of a host of fascinating and hitherto unrecognized problems in the representation of evolutionary history, problems associated with the writing of narrative. These problems include selective attention, narrative perspective, foregrounding and backgrounding, differential resolution, and the establishment of a canon of important events. The narrative aspects of (...) evolutionary writing, however, which promote linearity and cohesiveness in conventional stories, conflict with the underlying chronicle of evolution, which is not linear, but branched, and which does not cohere, but diverges. The impulse to narrate is so great, however, and is so strongly reinforced by traditional schemes of taxonomic attention, that natural historians have more often abandoned the diverging tree than they have abandoned the narrative mode of representation. If we are to understand the true nature of the evolutionary past then we must adopt tree thinking, and develop new and creative ways, both narrative and non-narrative, of telling the history of life. (shrink)
In this article, the rotational invariance of entangled quantum states is investigated as a possible cause of the Pauli exclusion principle. First, it is shown that a certain class of rotationally invariant states can only occur in pairs. This is referred to as the coupling principle. This in turn suggests a natural classification of quantum systems into those containing coupled states and those that do not. Surprisingly, it would seem that Fermi–Dirac statistics follows as a consequence of this coupling while (...) the Bose–Einstein follows by breaking it. In Sec. 5, the above approach is related to Pauli's original spin-statistics theorem and finally in the last two sections, a theoretical justification, based on Clebsch–Gordan coefficients and the experimental evidence respectively, is presented. (shrink)
"The Natural System" is the abstract notion of the order in living diversity. The richness and complexity of this notion is revealed by the diversity of representations of the Natural System drawn by ornithologists in the Nineteenth Century. These representations varied in overall form from stars, to circles, to maps, to evolutionary trees and cross-sections through trees. They differed in their depiction of affinity, analogy, continuity, directionality, symmetry, reticulation and branching, evolution, and morphological convergence and divergence. Some representations were two-dimensional, (...) and some were three-dimensional; n-dimensional representations were discussed but never illustrated. The study of diagrammatic representations of the Natural System is made difficult by the frequent failure of authors to discuss them in their texts, and by the consequent problem of distinguishing features which carried meaning from arbitrary features and printing conventions which did not. Many of the systematics controversies of the last thirty years have their roots in the conceptual problems which surrounded the Natural System in the late 1800s, problems which were left unresolved when interest in higher-level systematics declined at the turn of this century. (shrink)
"The Natural System" is the name given to the underlying arrangement present in the diversity of life. Unlike a classification, which is made up of classes and members, a system or arrangement is an integrated whole made up of connected parts. In the pre-evolutionary period a variety of forms were proposed for the Natural System, including maps, circles, stars, and abstract multidimensional objects. The trees sketched by Darwin in the 1830s should probably be considered the first genuine evolutionary diagrams of (...) the Natural System—the first genuine evolutionary trees. Darwin refined his image of the Natural System in the well-known evolutionary tree published in the Origin of Species, where he also carefully distinguished between arrangements and classifications. Following the publication of the Origin, there was a great burst of evolutionary tree building, but interest in trees declined substantially after 1900, only to be revived in recent years with the development of cladistic analysis. ¶ While evolutionary trees are modern diagrams of the Natural System, they are at the same time instances of another broad class of diagrams that may be called "trees of history": branching diagrams of genealogical descent and change. During the same years that Darwin was sketching his first evolutionary trees, the earliest examples of two other trees of history also appeared: the first trees of language evolution and of manuscript genealogy. Though these were apparently independent of evolutionary trees in their origin, the similarities among all these trees of history, and among the historical processes that underlie them, were soon recognized. Darwin compared biological evolution and language evolution several times in the Origin of Species, and both Ernst Haeckel and the linguist August Schleicher made similar comparisons. Both linguists and stemmaticists (students of manuscript descent) understood the principle of apomorphy—the principle that only shared innovations provide evidence of common ancestry—more clearly than did systematists, and if there had been more cross-fertilization among these fields the cladistic revolution in systematics might well have taken place in the nineteenth century. ¶ Although historical linguists and stemmaticists have in some respects had sounder theory than have systematists, at least until recently, they have also had the practical problem of very large amounts of data, a problem not often faced by systematists until the advent of molecular sequencing. The opportunity now exists for systematists to contribute to the theory and practice of linguistics and stemmatics, their sister disciplines in historical reconstruction, through application of our commonly used computer programs for tree estimation. Preliminary results from the application of numerical cladistic analysis to a large stemmatic data set have been very encouraging, and have already generated much discussion in the stemmatics community. (shrink)
The species problem is one of the oldest controversies in natural history. Its persistence suggests that it is something more than a problem of fact or definition. Considerable light is shed on the species problem when it is viewed as a problem in the representation of the natural system (sensu Griffiths, 1974, Acta Biotheor. 23: 85–131; de Queiroz, 1998, Philos. Sci. 55: 238–259). Just as maps are representations of the earth, and are subject to what is called cartographic generalization, so (...) diagrams of the natural system (evolutionary trees) are representations of the evolutionary chronicle, and are subject to a temporal version of cartographic generalization which may be termed systematic generalization. Cartographic generalization is based on judgements of geographical importance, and systematic generalization is based on judgements of historical importance, judgements expressed in narrative sentences (sensu Danto, 1985, Narration and knowledge, Columbia Univ. Press, New York). At higher systematic levels these narrative sentences are conventional and retrospective, but near the "species" level they become prospective, that is, dependent upon expectations of the future. The truth of prospective narrative sentences is logically indeterminable in the present, and since all the common species concepts depend upon prospective narration, it is impossible for any of them to be applied with precision. (shrink)
The art of reading as a way of life: an introduction to Nietzsche's truth -- Experiments in creative reading: the Cambridge Nietzsche -- Nietzsche's passion in The gay science: an experiment in creative reading -- Nietzsche's book for all and none: the singularity of Thus spoke Zarathustra -- Ecce homo: Nietzsche's two natures -- Nietzsche's critical vortex: on the global tragedy of theoretical man.
Classifications of animals and plants have long been represented by hierarchical lists of taxa, but occasional authors have drawn diagrammatic versions of their classifications in an attempt to better depict the "natural relationships" of their organisms. Ornithologists in 19th-century Britain produced and pioneered many types of classificatory diagrams, and these fall into three groups: (a) the quinarian systems of Vigors and Swainson (1820s and 1830s); (b) the "maps" of Strickland and Wallace (1840s and 1850s); and (c) the evolutionary diagrams of (...) the post-Darwin authors (1860 on). The quinarians distinguished between affinity and analogy and used both in their classifications, whereas Strickland rejected the quinarians' belief in numerical regularity and their use of analogy. Wallace's "maps" are easily given an evolutionary interpretation, and his approach was taken up and modified by later evolutionary anatomists. Sharpe returned to Strickland's methods and merely appended a superficial evolutionary interpretation. Contrary to common belief systematics has a rich conceptual history, and many of the conceptual developments in 19th-century systematics were made by ornithologists. (shrink)
Twenty-three years ago Robert Ayers noticed several brief and intriguing comments on miracles in the Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce. Working with just those scraps of information from the CP, he stitched together a rough but helpful starting point for understanding this aspect of Peirce's religious and scientific thought. In the last few years several more articles on this subject have been written, each filling in a gap left by the others: Ayers' is a theological view, based solely on (...) the CP; later articles fill out Peirce's mathematics and his logic. This paper attempts to fill in a genealogical gap by showing how his thought on miracles is directly related to his dialogues with Plato, Hume, and Lutoslawski. My resources are largely unpublished manuscripts, many of which are fragmentary. I show the relationship between these manuscripts and two key published essays, "Philosophy and the Conduct of Life", and "On the Logic of Drawing History from Ancient Documents, Especially from Testimonies", and then show how Peirce, in dialogue with Plato, exposes and overcomes the nominalistic and anti- miracle prejudices of historiography in his day. The resulting view of history is fallibilistic, realistic and evolutionary, in which miracles are not violations of laws of nature but are to be expected as evolutionary variations that form part of the ongoing self-revelation of the cosmos. Miracles, like all events in history, must not be viewed prejudicially by adherents or detractors, but must be taken into careful account in the grand induction of history and science. (shrink)
In the last thirty years systematics has transformed itself from a discipline concerned with classification into a discipline concerned with reconstructing the evolutionary history of life. This transformation has been driven by cladistic analysis, a set of techniques for reconstructing evolutionary trees. Long interested in the large-scale structure of evolutionary history, cladistically oriented systematists have recently begun to apply "tree thinking" to problems near the species level. ¶ In any local ("non-dimensional") situation species are usually well-defined, but across space and (...) time the grouping of populations into species is often problematic. Three views of species are in common use today, the biological species concept, the evolutionary species concept, and the phylogenetic species concept. Each of these has strengths and weaknesses, but no matter which is applied, exact counts of the number of species in any extended area will always be ambiguous no matter how much factual information is available. This ambiguity arises because evolution is an historical process, and the grouping of organisms into species always depends to some extent upon expectations of the future behavior of those organisms and their descendants, expectations that cannot be evaluated in the present. The existence and special character of the species problem is itself one of the central pieces of evidence for evolution. (shrink)
Models of scientific explanation derived from the physical sciences are often poorly suited to the historical sciences—to the fields William Whewell called the palaetiological sciences. A listing of 27 titles that explore the nature of narrative understanding across a range of scientific disciplines—from cosmology to paleontology to economics—attests to the importance of narrative epistemology in the sciences.