We consider the question: under what circumstances can the concept of adaptation be applied to groups, rather than individuals? Gardner and Grafen (2009, J. Evol. Biol.22: 659–671) develop a novel approach to this question, building on Grafen's ‘formal Darwinism’ project, which defines adaptation in terms of links between evolutionary dynamics and optimization. They conclude that only clonal groups, and to a lesser extent groups in which reproductive competition is repressed, can be considered as adaptive units. We re-examine the conditions under (...) which the selection–optimization links hold at the group level. We focus on an important distinction between two ways of understanding the links, which have different implications regarding group adaptationism. We show how the formal Darwinism approach can be reconciled with G.C. Williams’ famous analysis of group adaptation, and we consider the relationships between group adaptation, the Price equation approach to multi-level selection, and the alternative approach based on contextual analysis. (shrink)
The role intellectual virtues play in scientific inquiry has raised significant discussions in the recent literature. A number of authors have recently explored the link between virtue epistemology and philosophy of science with the aim to show whether epistemic virtues can contribute to the resolution of the problem of theory choice. This paper analyses how intellectual virtues can be beneficial for successful resolution of theory choice. We explore the role of virtues as well as vices in scientific inquiry and their (...) beneficial effects in the context of theory choice. We argue that vices can play a role in widening the set of potential candidate theories and support our claim with historical examples and normative arguments from formal social epistemology. We argue that even though virtues appear to be neither necessary nor sufficient for scientific success, they have a positive effect because they accelerate successful convergence amongst scientists in theory choice situations. (shrink)
Deception has recently received a significant amount of attention. One of main reasons is that it lies at the intersection of various areas of research, such as the evolution of cooperation, animal communication, ethics or epistemology. This essay focuses on the biological approach to deception and argues that standard definitions put forward by most biologists and philosophers are inadequate. We provide a functional account of deception which solves the problems of extant accounts in virtue of two characteristics: deceptive states have (...) the function of causing a misinformative states and they do not necessarily provide direct benefits to the deceivers and losses to the targets. (shrink)
There has been a significant interest in the recent literature in developing a solution to the problem of theory choice which is both normative and descriptive, but agent-based rather than rule-based, originating from Pierre Duhem’s notion of ‘good sense’. In this paper we present the properties Duhem attributes to good sense in different contexts, before examining its current reconstructions advanced in the literature and their limitations. We propose an alternative account of good sense, seen as promoting social consensus in science, (...) and show that it is superior to its rivals in two respects: it is more faithful to Duhemian good sense, and it cashes out the effect that virtues have on scientific progress. We then defend the social consensus account against objections that highlight the positive role of diversity and division of labour in science. (shrink)
Defined and formalized several decades ago, widely used in philosophy and game theory, the concept of common knowledge is still considered as problematic, although not always for the right reasons. I suggest that the epistemic status of a group of human agents in a state of common knowledge has not been thoroughly analyzed. In particular, every existing account of common knowledge, whether formal or not, is either too strong to fit cognitively limited individuals, or too weak to adequately describe their (...) state. I provide a realistic definition of common knowledge, based on a formalization of David Lewis’ seminal account and show that it is formally equivalent to probabilistic common belief. This leads to a philosophical analysis of common knowledge which answers several common criticisms and sheds light on its nature. (shrink)
We critically examine a number of aspects of Grafen’s ‘formal Darwinism’ project. We argue that Grafen’s ‘selection-optimality’ links do not quite succeed in vindicating the working assumption made by behavioural ecologists and others—that selection will lead organisms to exhibit adaptive behaviour—since these links hold true even in the presence of strong genetic and developmental constraints. However we suggest that the selection-optimality links can profitably be viewed as constituting an axiomatic theory of fitness. Finally, we compare Grafen’s project with Fisher’s ‘fundamental (...) theorem of natural selection’, and we speculate about whether Grafen’s results can be extended to a game-theoretic setting. (shrink)
Recent years have witnessed an increased number of game-theoretic approaches to social norms, which apparently share some common vocabulary and methods. We describe three major approaches of this kind (due to Binmore, Bicchieri and Gintis), before comparing them systematically on five crucial themes: generality of the solution, preference transformation, punishment, epistemic conditions and type of explanation. This allows us to show that these theories are, by and large, less compatible than they seem. We then argue that those three theories struggle (...) to account for three phenomena pertaining to social norms (namely context-dependence, conflicting norms and self-evidence), with which any complete game-theoretic account should in principle be able to deal. (shrink)
Most definitions of cooperation provide sufficient but not necessary conditions. This paper describes a form of minimal cooperation, corresponding to mass actions implying many agents, such as demonstrations. It characterizes its intentional, epistemic, strategic, and teleological aspects, mostly obtained from weakening classical concepts. The rationality of minimal cooperation turns out to be part of its definition, whereas it is usually considered as an optional though desirable feature. Game-theoretic concepts thus play an important role in its definition. The paper concludes by (...) answering concrete questions about what should and should not be called cooperation. (shrink)
Over the last three decades, joint action has received various definitions, which for all their differences share many features. However, they cannot fit some perplexing cases of weak joint action, such as demonstrations, where agents rely on distinct epistemic sources, and as a result, have no first-hand knowledge about each other. I argue that one major reason why the definition of such collective actions is akin to the classical ones is that it crucially relies on the concept of common knowledge. (...) To this end, I first argue for the necessity of common knowledge for joint action in general due to the increased reliability of success it entails. I then defend the relevance of common knowledge against several criticisms, point at an adequate weakening, and discuss alternative approaches. Although structurally weaker, the common knowledge has a richer content in weak joint actions. As a result, even if the links between individuals are seriously stretched, much is still shared among them. Weak joint actions still require considerable cognitive abilities indeed. (shrink)
The repeated attempts to characterise joint action have displayed a common trend towards minimalism – whether they focus on minimal situations, minimal characterisations, cognitively minimal agents or minimal cognitive mechanisms. This trend also appears to lead to pluralism: the idea that joint action may receive multiple, equally valid characterisations. In this paper, I argue for a pluralist stance regarding joint action, although one stemming from maximalism. Starting from the description of three cases of "maximal" joint action – demonstrations, deliberations and (...) free collective improvisation – that stretch our conceptual characterisations of joint action, I introduce and defend contextual minimalism, which focuses on joint actions occurring in contexts from which the factors that typically favour successful cooperation are absent. Although maximalist as compared to the other forms of minimalism, contextual minimalism does fit the minimalist trend and its recent emphasis on specific cognitive cooperative mechanisms. (shrink)
Ordinary common knowledge is formally expressed by strong probabilistic common belief. How strong exactly? The question can be answered by drawing from the similar equivalence, recently explored, between plain and probabilistic individual beliefs. I argue that such a move entails that common knowledge displays a double fragility: as a description of a collective state and as a phenomenon, because it can respectively disappear as group size increases, or more worryingly as the epistemic context changes. I argue that despite this latter (...) fragility, the effects of common knowledge on action are robust. Unfortunately, this in turn leads to a third fragility, that of the concept of common knowledge, which threatens to collapse on probabilistic common belief. This also reveals a disanalogy between the individual and the collective cases. I finally pinpoint the subtle difference entailed by the two concepts, expressed in terms of the attitude towards contrary evidence or of the agents’ awareness. As a result, common knowledge can be defended as a concept, which refers to a fragile yet distinct collective attitude. (shrink)
Robustness analysis is widespread in science, but philosophers have struggled to justify its confirmatory power. We provide a positive account of robustness by analysing some explicit and implicit uses of within and across-model robustness in evolutionary theory. We argue that appeals to robustness are usually difficult to justify because they aim to increase the likeliness that a phenomenon obtains. However, we show that robust results are necessary for explanations of phenomena with specific properties. Across-model robustness is necessary for how-possibly explanations (...) of multiply instantiated phenomena, while within-model robustness is necessary for explanations of phenomena with multiple evolutionary starting points. In such cases, the appeal of robustness is explanatory rather than confirmatory. (shrink)
There exist many competing philosophical definitions of joint action and no clear criteria to decide between them; so far the search for definitions has by and large been a semantical enterprise rather than an empirical one. This chapter describes and assesses several constraints that could help converge towards a set of necessary and sufficient conditions for joint action. The tightness constraint favours definitions that fit joint actions in which the links between agents are as relaxed as possible, so as to (...) better pinpoint the conceptual core of jointness. The developmental constraint asks for definitions based on realistic psychological states that could be entertained by agents less cognitively developed than ideal human beings. The motor constraint holds that definitions should refer to psychological mechanisms involved in actual human coordination. These first three constraints are discussed and dismissed, mainly because they manage to establish vague limits at best (for various reasons). I then introduce a fourth one, the efficiency constraint, based on the fact that most of our joint actions are generally successful, and according to which definitions should involve conditions that help justify this success. Finally, the rational and evolutionary versions of the efficiency constraint are examined and defended against objections. (shrink)
This paper introduces freely improvised joint actions, a class of joint actions characterized by highly unspecific goals and the unavailability of shared plans. For example, walking together just for the sake of walking together with no specific destination or path in mind provides an ordinary example of FIJAs, along with examples in the arts, e.g., collective free improvisation in music, improv theater, or contact improvisation in dance. We argue that classic philosophical accounts of joint action such as Bratman’s rule them (...) out because the latter require a capacity for planning that is idle in the case of FIJAs. This argument is structurally similar to arguments for minimalist accounts of joint action, and this invites a parallel minimalist account, which we provide in terms of a specific kind of shared intentions that do not require plan states. We further argue that the resulting minimalist account is different in kind from the sort of minimalism suggested by developmental considerations and conclude in favor of a pluralistic minimalism, according to which there are several ways for an account of joint action to be minimal. (shrink)
Social evolution theory provides a wide array of successful evolutionary explanations for cooperative traits. However and surprisingly, a number of cases of unexplained cooperative behaviour remain. Shouldn’t they cast doubt on the relevance of the theory, or even disconfirm it? This depends on whether the theory is akin to a research programme such as adaptationism, or closer to a theory – a set of compatible, confirmable hypotheses. In order to find out, we focus on the two main tenets of social (...) evolution theory, namely reciprocity explanations and kin selection. Reciprocity-based explanations are extremely hard to confirm. This is due, first to the multiple realisability of explanatory processes, factors and strategies, despite apparent reasons to the contrary; second, to the high quantity, and limited availability of data needed to eliminate or back up such explanations. One of our target cases vividly illustrates these limitations. Moreover, kin selection, while relatively easy to disconfirm in particular cases, seems to enjoy a more limited explanatory scope than previously thought. Overall, social evolution theory turns out to be neither a research programme nor a theory, but a heterogeneous scientific entity, composed of parts that are amenable to confirmation and others barely so. (shrink)
La plupart des nombreuses définitions existantes d’une action coopérative en fournissent des conditions suffisantes plutôt que nécessaires. Nous définissons ici une forme minimale de coopération, correspondant aux actions de masse, telles des manifestations. Nous en détaillons les aspects intentionnel, épistémique, stratégique et téléologique, généralement obtenus par affaiblissement spécifique de concepts classiques. Parallèlement, nous soulignons le rôle crucial de concepts issus de la théorie des jeux pour la définition d’une action coopérative. Enfin, nous soutenons que la rationalité d’une action coopérative minimale (...) est cruciale à sa réalisation et pas seulement possible ou souhaitable comme le soutiennent les analyses habituelles. (shrink)
Marcher ensemble, porter une table à plusieurs, participer à une manifestation, et même discuter, sont autant d’exemples de coopération humaine – d’action conjointe. Par opposition, les mouvements d’une foule dans la rue, la course simultanée d’individus vers un abri lorsque l’orage se déclare ne sont que des actions collectives. Mais comment distinguer les unes des autres? Quand pouvons-nous dire que des personnes ont vraiment agi ensemble? Et comment expliquer qu’ils coopèrent même lorsque le risque d’échec est considérable? Cet ouvrage se (...) propose de répondre à ces questions, en se penchant sur toutes les dimensions de la coopération : les buts collectifs, la connaissance commune, ainsi que les facteurs psychologiques, cognitifs et stratégiques qui la favorisent. À partir de notions telles que l’identification de groupe, on défendra en particulier la thèse que certains types d’actions de masse, comme les manifestations, peuvent constituer des exemples légitimes de coopération. (shrink)
There exist many definitions of human joint action, or of what makes a group similar to an individual. However, they do not agree and are not directly reducible to each other. This multiplicity is due to a lack of constraints on them. I argue that they should at least meet an efficiency constraint: any account of joint action has to justify how it reliably leads agents to cooperation. One avenue consists in exploring the analogy between definitions of joint action and (...) of biological individuality. The main components for biological individuality have been identified and their relations are much better understood than those between the components of human joint action. I show that there are surprisingly strong analogies between the criteria and mechanisms for joint action and for biological individuality. As a result, we can import some insights of the biological literature to define what a joint action is, and when a group can and should be considered as an individual. (shrink)
Climate stresses and monetary resources seem to lead to different collective adaptations. However, the reference to adaptation and to ambiguous collective dimensions appears premature; populations may entertain nothing more than shared adaptiveness. At this point, the intricacy of the underlying evolutionary processes (cultural selection, fitness-utility decoupling) very much obscures any diagnosis based on correlations.
The surprisingly high reliability of Wikipedia has often been seen as a beneficial effect of the aggregation of diverse contributors, or as an instance of the wisdom of crowds phenomenon; additional factors such as elite contributors, Wikipedia’s policy or its administration have also been mentioned. We adjudicate between such explanations by modelling and simulating the evolution of a Wikipedia entry. The main threat to Wikipedia’s reliability, namely the presence of epistemically disruptive agents such as disinformers and trolls, turns out to (...) be offset only by a combination of factors: Wikipedia’s administration and the possibility to instantly revert entries, both of which are insufficient when considered in isolation. Our results suggest that the reliability of Wikipedia should receive a pluralist explanation, involving factors of different kinds. (shrink)
Coen offers a unified explanation of natural selection, development, learning and cultural change, based on seven fundamental principles: population variation, persistence, reinforcement, competition, cooperation, combinatorial richness and recurrence. I discuss whether all seven principles are justified, successfully fit the four processes, encompass life processes only, and have any strong explanatory import. I find each of these claims doubtful.
In his 'Cooperation as joint action', Tuomela presents a we-mode account of cooperation, which he argues has several advantages over an individual account. This commentary examines to what extent this is true. In particular, I assess three related characteristics of we-mode joint action: its possible rationality, its greater efficiency, and its alleged irreducibility to purely individual properties, which are recurring points of the article.