We review some of the main implications of the free-energy principle (FEP) for the study of the self-organization of living systems – and how the FEP can help us to understand (and model) biotic self-organization across the many temporal and spatial scales over which life exists. In order to maintain its integrity as a bounded system, any biological system - from single cells to complex organisms and societies - has to limit the disorder or dispersion (i.e., the long-run entropy) of (...) its constituent states. We review how this can be achieved by living systems that minimize their variational free energy. Variational free energy is an information theoretic construct, originally introduced into theoretical neuroscience and biology to explain perception, action, and learning. It has since been extended to explain the evolution, development, form, and function of entire organisms, providing a principled model of biotic self-organization and autopoiesis. It has provided insights into biological systems across spatiotemporal scales, ranging from microscales (e.g., sub- and multicellular dynamics), to intermediate scales (e.g., groups of interacting animals and culture), through to macroscale phenomena (the evolution of entire species). A crucial corollary of the FEP is that an organism just is (i.e., embodies or entails) an implicit model of its environment. As such, organisms come to embody causal relationships of their ecological niche, which, in turn, is influenced by their resulting behaviors. Crucially, free-energy minimization can be shown to be equivalent to the maximization of Bayesian model evidence. This allows us to cast natural selection in terms of Bayesian model selection, providing a robust theoretical account of how organisms come to match or accommodate the spatiotemporal complexity of their surrounding niche. In line with the theme of this volume; namely, biological complexity and self-organization, this chapter will examine a variational approach to self-organization across multiple dynamical scales. (shrink)
Two reverse supertasks—one new and one invented by Pérez Laraudogoitia —are discussed. Contra Kerkvliet and Pérez Laraudogoitia, it is argued that these supertasks cannot be used to conduct fair infinite lotteries, i.e., lotteries on the set of natural numbers with a uniform probability distribution. The new supertask involves an infinity of gods who collectively select a natural number by each removing one ball from a collection of initially infinitely many balls in a reverse omega-sequence of actions.
The attitudes that characterize the contemporary “neuro-turn” were strikingly commonplace as part of the self-fashioning of social identity in the biographies and personal papers of past neurologists and neuroscientists. Indeed, one fundamental connection between nineteenth- and twentieth-century neurology and contemporary neuroscience appears to be the value that workers in both domains attach to the idea of integration, a vision of neural science and medicine that connected reductionist science to broader inquiries about the mind, brain, and human nature and in so (...) doing supposedly resolved once and for all questions germane to the human sciences, humanities, and arts. How those attitudes were produced and reproduced first in neurology and then in neuroscience; in what way they were constructed and disciplined, thereby eventuating in the contested sciences and medicines of the mind, brain, and nervous system; and even how they garnered ever-wider contemporary purchase in cultures and societies are thus fascinating problems for historians of science and medicine. Such problems shed light on ethics, practices, controversies, and the uneasy social relations within those scientific and medical domains. But more to the point of this essay: they also account for the apparent epistemological weight now accorded “the neuro” in our contemporary moment. They thus illuminate in a rather different way why historians have suddenly discovered the value of “the neuro.”. (shrink)
A method of supervaluation for Kripke’s theory of truth is presented. It differs from Kripke’s own method in that it employs trees; results in a compositional semantics; assigns the intuitively correct truth values to the sentences of a particularly tricky example of Gupta’s; and – it is argued – is acceptable as an explication of the correspondence theory of truth.
A modification of Kripke’s theory of truth is proposed and it is shown how this modification solves some of the problems of expressive weakness in Kripke’s theory. This is accomplished by letting truth values be grounded in facts about other sentences’ ungroundedness.
Regional technology clusters are an important source of economic growth within the knowledge economy. The success of Silicon Valley in particular has shown that university discoveries can spill over into regional economies to drive the emergence and growth of major new industries. From a public policy standpoint, the goal of ‘creating more Silicon Valleys’ has emerged as a major goal of recent technology policy. Evidence suggests that regional clusters focused on high technology only rarely develop. How do regional technology clusters (...) emerge, and what makes them sustainable? A large literature has emerged attempting to answer this question. This article surveys three major perspectives on technology clusters: approaches focused on universities as the anchor of regional clusters; theories focusing on the development of social networks within clusters; and institutional explanations. Each of these three approaches focuses on factors that are unquestionably important in explaining why some regions develop successful clusters while others do not. Each approach also yields a clear policy perspective and has itself influenced public policy. At best, each approach can, however, yield only a partial explanation of cluster success, but in combination they do reveal how complementary the perspectives are. A holistic approach that combines insights from the three approaches yields a reasonably clear understanding of key factors that explain why some regions successfully develop technology clusters while others do not. (shrink)
Based upon a brief outline of existential-phenomenological ontology we present a theoretical and practical understanding of human being, which is suited for a methodologically reflected approach to qualitative research. We present the phenomenological distinction between three dimensions of corporeal intentionality that form elementary events and structures of meaning. Various aspects of human being are better scrutinized with these concepts of intentionality, such as the association of individual being or collective being with the less differentiated anonymity of human being. The aim (...) of our framework is to support the qualitative researcher in grasping the experience of the human life in closer accord with how this being actually unfolds and is lived. Application of the presented framework is illuminated with empirical examples from educational, health and psychological contexts. Finally, we discuss the methodological implications that our approach has for qualitative investigations of human being. (shrink)
This introduction to the Common Knowledge symposium titled “Comparative Relativism” outlines a variety of intellectual contexts where placing the unlikely companion terms comparison and relativism in conjunction offers analytical purchase. If comparison, in the most general sense, involves the investigation of discrete contexts in order to elucidate their similarities and differences, then relativism, as a tendency, stance, or working method, usually involves the assumption that contexts exhibit, or may exhibit, radically different, incomparable, or incommensurable traits. Comparative studies are required to (...) treat their objects as alike, at least in some crucial respects; relativism indicates the limits of this practice. Jensen argues that this seeming paradox is productive, as he moves across contexts, from Lévi-Strauss's analysis of comparison as an anthropological method to Peter Galison's history of physics, and on to the anthropological, philosophical, and historical examples offered in symposium contributions by Barbara Herrnstein Smith, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, Marilyn Strathern, and Isabelle Stengers. Comparative relativism is understood by some to imply that relativism comes in various kinds and that these have multiple uses, functions, and effects, varying widely in different personal, historical, and institutional contexts that can be compared and contrasted. Comparative relativism is taken by others to encourage a “comparison of comparisons,” in order to relativize what different peoples—say, Western academics and Amerindian shamans—compare things “for.” Jensen concludes that what is compared and relativized in this symposium are the methods of comparison and relativization themselves. He ventures that the contributors all hope that treating these terms in juxtaposition may allow for new configurations of inquiry. (shrink)
After explaining the well-known two-envelope paradox by indicating the fallacy involved, we consider the two-envelope problem of evaluating the factual information provided to us in the form of the value contained by the envelope chosen first. We try to provide a synthesis of contributions from economy, psychology, logic, probability theory (in the form of Bayesian statistics), mathematical statistics (in the form of a decision-theoretic approach) and game theory. We conclude that the two-envelope problem does not allow a satisfactory solution. An (...) interpretation is made for statistical science at large. (shrink)
What follows from the suggestion to pay attention to what is in-between science and politics? Karen François’s paper “In-between science and politics” follows Latour in arguing for the need for political theory to get out of the Platonic cave that it still inhabits. Political theory needs to be brought into the wild through empirical studies of how science and politics in fact intermix. And the Latourian proposition needs to be strengthened by focusing on the embodied knowledges that enable situated objectivities (...) to emerge. Though worthwhile, these arguments are weakened by a superficial treatment of political theory and by a lack of attention to the difficulties involved in combining Latourian actor-network theory with the “strong objectivity” of standpoint theory. Most problematically the paper purports to define as an agenda (exploring the in-between of science and politics) what whole fields of inquiry have already been in full swing exploring for quite a while. The ‘turn to ontology’ in STS and social anthropology and the development of ‘empirical philosophy’ suggests what might be at stake in such explorations. (shrink)
The paper takes as its starting point Donna Haraway’s suggestion, “The actors are cyborg, nature is coyote, and the geography is elsewhere”. It discusses first the understanding of the cyborg promoted by Haraway as illustrating an ontological non-humanist disposition, rather than a periodizing claim. The second part of the paper examines some instances of low-tech cyborg identities, which have emerged in developing countries (elsewhere) as a consequence of development initiatives. The paper argues that the quite literal attempts to develop cyborgs (...) in such countries gives rise to developments not foreseen or controllable by the development industries. If cyborg identities are developing and minds and bodies shaped in the frictions between culture, technology, economy, and development projects and activities then what are the implications for cognitive studies. In the final part of the paper this question is considered and it is suggested that cognitive studies would do well to expand their analytical foci to take into account cyborg bodies and minds found “elsewhere”. (shrink)
This paper points out the need for an analytical and ontological reorientation of the field of computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW). It is argued that even though this field is heterogeneous it is marred by general problems of conceptualising the co-constitutive relations between humans and technologies. This is demonstrated through readings of several recent CSCW analyses. It is then suggested that a conceptual improvement can be facilitated by paying attention to newer scientific studies, here exemplified by Pickering, Haraway and Latour.
Casper Hendrik Rautenbach: 'Deeds, more than ideas, make life meaningful'Professor Casper Hendrik Rautenbach was born on 6th of March 1902 in Zeerust in the Western Transvaal, RSA, where he matriculated at the Zeerust Public School at the end of 1918. In June 1923 he was awarded the MA degree in Philosophy and at the end of the same year the BD degree in Theology. In 1932 he completed his thesis, titled 'Sedelike Keuring '. After serving as clergyman in (...) the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk van Afrika, and as lecturer in Philosophy and Christian Ethics, he was promoted to Rector of the University of Pretoria, an office which he held from the 9th of April 1948 until the 30th of June 1970. Professor Rautenbach is respected as an outstanding academic and leading churchman. He achieved outstanding results in the educational field especially by playing an active role in the formulation of the Education Policy Act. (shrink)
Longinus' On the Sublime presents itself as a response to the work of the Augustan critic Caecilius of Caleacte. Recent attempts to reconstruct Longinus' intellectual context have largely ignored the works of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Caecilius' contemporary colleague . This article investigates the concept of hupsos and its religious aspects in Longinus and Dionysius, and reveals a remarkable continuity between the discourse of both authors. Dionysius' works inform us about an Augustan debate on Plato and the sublime, and thereby provide (...) us with an important context for Longinus' treatise. (shrink)
This article offers a comparative analysis of experimental fetal surgery and fetal tissue research. The author argues that fetuses are positioned differently across each set of practices, with significant implications for actors in these domains. By empirically charting the ways in which humanity is or is not attributed to fetal work objects, the author's argument challenges contemporary debates in science studies that tend to conceptualize human and nonhuman in dualistic terms. This analysis instead shows the heterogeneous attribution of these categories, (...) as well as the spaces, margins, and positions, which constitute them as distinct. (shrink)
This article brings insights from feminist science and technology studies to bear on recent public debates over the human papillomavirus vaccine, which prevents many cervical cancers, and male circumcision as potential HIV preventive. In the United States, attempts to mandate HPV vaccination have activated intense concerns about female “promiscuity,” whereas talk of promoting circumcision against HIV has triggered scant anxiety about American boys’ sexuality. The authors show how intersections among gender, sexuality, race, and age have shaped responses to these two (...) containment technologies—and how the technologies’ deployment both relies on and reproduces meanings of gender and sexuality that constitute the omnipresent “double standard.” The analysis develops an original feminist sociology of containment, explicating how social relations shape the innovation, reinvention, and use of technologies to contain particular sorts of bodies, fluids, and sexual practices—by whom, under what conditions, and for what purposes. (shrink)
In 1964 José Benardete invented the “New Zeno Paradox” about an infinity of gods trying to prevent a traveller from reaching his destination. In this paper it is argued, contra Priest and Yablo, that the paradox must be resolved by rejecting the possibility of actual infinity. Further, it is shown that this paradox has the same logical form as Yablo’s Paradox. It is suggested that constructivism can serve as the basis of a common solution to New Zeno and the paradoxes (...) of truth, and a constructivist interpretation of Kripke’s theory of truth is given. (shrink)
The dichotomy between the conceptual and the empirical is part of common sense, yet its organizing force also extends to intellectual life more generally, including the disciplinary life of science and technology studies. This article problematizes this dichotomy as it operates in contemporary STS discussions, arguing instead that the conceptual and the empirical form unstable hybrids. Beginning with a discussion of the “discontents” with which the dominant theory methods packages in STS are viewed, it is suggested that STS has entered (...) a phase resembling Kuhnian normal science. Based on a discussion of the making of cognitive dissonance theory, it is then argued conceptual–empirical mixtures are unavoidable in actual research practice. This situation can be taken as an encouragement for more sustained exploration of conceptual–empirical relations and their inventive potentials. Invoking Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of “continuous variation,” the article concludes that STS as a discipline is well served by promoting an ethos of empirical and conceptual experimentation. (shrink)
Extensive scholarship has described the historical and ethical imperatives shaping the emergence of the brain death criteria in the 1960s and 1970s. This essay explores the longer intellectual history that shaped theories of neurological consciousness from the late-nineteenth century to that period, and argues that a significant transformation occurred in the elaboration of those theories in the 1960s and after, the period when various disturbances of consciousness were discovered or thoroughly elaborated. Numerous historical conditions can be identified and attributed to (...) the production of the new theories that emerged from that period-on, not least in the broader social and cultural transformations that occurred with decolonialization, pro-democracy movements, and civil and disability rights advocacy, all contexts which exerted pressures on the institutions and professions of medicine. In this telling, the discovery of the locked-in patient is thus the exploration of a transformed vision of medical patients – one that moved them from a liminal indefinite space into a firmly grounded epistemological existence – in a backdrop in which medical professionals in particular and society in general was beginning to see the body differently. With this new vision, came a relational theory of consciousness to, a reading of a body and it signs, that shifted consciousness from an internally-derived state into a relationally-constructed object. The ontology of consciousness, whatever it was, thereby became entangled with the social condition of consciousness, one that bridged the worlds of close relationship with the social movements and anxieties about personhood that emanated out of that fraught period. (shrink)
Why would anyone want there to be natural foundations for the social sciences? In a provocative essay exploring precisely that question, historian Chris Renwick uses an interwar debate featuring William Beveridge, Lancelot Hogben, and Friedrich Hayek to begin to imagine what might have been had such a program calling for biological knowledge to form the natural bases of the social sciences been realized at the London School of Economics. Yet perhaps Renwick grants too much attention to differences and “what-ifs” and (...) not enough to the historical question of “what happened” afterward. “Chickens and Eggs” offers an alternative view of this rather vexed question—one grounded in what happened, which suggests that Renwick’s concerns may be somewhat misplaced. (shrink)