One of the earliest and most influential papers applying Darwinian theory to human cultural evolution was Donald T. Campbell’s paper “Variation and Selective Retention in Sociocultural Systems.” Campbell’s programmatic essay appeared as a chapter in a book entitled Social Change in Developing Areas (Barringer et al., 1965). It sketched a very ambitious project to apply Darwinian principles to the study of the evolution of human behavior. His essential theses were four.
Aside from his remarkable studies in psychology and the social sciences, Donald Thomas Campbell (1916–1996) made significant contributions to philosophy, particularly philosophy of science,epistemology, and ethics. His name and his work are inseparably linked with the evolutionary approach to explaining human knowledge (evolutionary epistemology). He was an indefatigable supporter of the naturalistic turn in philosophy and has strongly influenced the discussion of moral issues (evolutionary ethics). The aim of this paper is to briefly characterize Campbells work and to discuss (...) its philosophical implications. In particular, I show its relevance to some current debates in the intersection of biology and philosophy. In fact, philosophy of biology would look poorer without Campbells influence. The present paper is not a hagiography but an attempt to evaluate and critically discuss the meaning of Campbells work for philosophy of biology and to encourage scholars working in this field to read and re-read this work which is both challenging and inspiring. (shrink)
THE MIND-BODY PROBLEM: A GUIDE TO THE CURRENT DEBATE (EDITED BY RICHARD WARNER AND TA D E U S Z SZUBKA) contains recent essays by the key players in the the field of the Mind-Body problem: Searle, Fodor, Problem Honderich, Nagel, McGinn, Stich, Rorty and others. But there are a few interesting exceptions, for example Edelman, Popper, Putnam and Dennett. Nevertheless, these thinkers do get a mention here and there, and nearly all the exciting topical issues are dealt with, including (...) externalism, functionalism, intentionality, Turing computational models, and the relationship between these philosophical problems and psychology. I am particularly struck by the tendency to engage in an evasive stratagem when it comes to stating the physicalist thesis. Instead of a clear definitive position about what kind of physical science would achieve the hoped-for reduction, what I found was variations on Lewis's claim that the reduction would be effected by a "unified body of scientific theories of the sort we now accept". Materialism used to be a clear doctrine: a clockwork Universe of impenetrable particles. But materialism transcended itself. First through Hobbes' and Leibniz's criticisms of Descartes, then Newton's demolition of the Cartesian idea that matter was essentially extension by introducing gravity (action at a distance) and then through the field theories of Faraday and Maxwell, and more recently through Einstein's work, which undermined the "substance" view of matter, something that remained permanent while other changes occurred. I contrast the perspectives of the Churchlands with those of Donald T. Campbell, Karl Popper and other evolutionary and emergentist views. -/- . (shrink)
This paper is focused on the analysis of the relationship between Davidson’s classical essays in Philosophy of Language and the thesis he developed with the article “A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs”. I shall argue that the idea of language defended by Davidson in the eighties doesn’t present similarities with Wittgenstein’s approach, as it is assumed by some scholars. In this respect, I reject the idea according to which we should assume the existence of an “early” and a “later” Donald (...) Davidson after the publication of “A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs”. By analyzing his works, I will show that the main elements of his theory of meaning remain unchanged and that there are no radical changes in Davidson’s philosophical perspective on language and meaning. (shrink)
The Appeal to Tradition, often considered to be unsound, frequently reflects sophisticated adaptations to the environment. Once developed, these adaptations are often transmitted culturally rather than as reasoned argument, so that people mayor may not be aware of why their traditions are wise. Tradition is more likely to be valid in a stable environment in which a wide range of variations have been available for past testing; however, traditions tend to become obsolete in a rapidly changing environment.
The rise to power of Donald Trump has been shocking in many ways. One of these was that it disrupted the preexisting consensus that overt racism would be death to a national political campaign. In this paper, I argue that Trump made use of what I call “racial figleaves”—additional utterances that provide just enough cover to give reassurance to voters who are racially resentful but don’t wish to see themselves as racist. These figleaves also, I argue, play a key (...) role in shifting our norms about what counts as racist: they bring it about that something which would previously have been seen as revealing obvious racism is now seen as the sort of thing that a nonracist might say. This gives them tremendous power to corrupt not just our political discourse but our culture more broadly. (shrink)
This essay – a collection of contributions from 10 scholars working in the field of biosemiotics and the humanities – considers nature in culture. It frames this by asking the question ‘Why does biosemiotics need the humanities?’. Each author writes from the background of their own disciplinary perspective in order to throw light upon their interdisciplinary engagement with biosemiotics. We start with Donald Favareau, whose originary disciplinary home is ethnomethodology and linguistics, and then move on to Paul Cobley’s contribution (...) on general semiotics and Kalevi Kull’s on biosemiotics. This is followed by Cobley with Frederick Stjernfelt who contribute on biosemiotics and learning, then Gerald Ostdiek from philosophy, and Morten Tønnessen focusing upon ethics in particular. Myrdene Anderson writes from anthropology, while Timo Maran and Louise Westling provide a view from literary study. The essay closes with Wendy Wheeler reflecting on the movement of biosemiotics as a challenge, often via the ecological humanities, to the kind of so-called ‘postmodern’ thinking that has dominated humanities critical thought in the universities for the past 40 years. Virtually all the matters gestured to in outline above are discussed in much more satisfying detail in the topics which follow. (shrink)
The concept of metaphor as primarily a vehicle for conveying ideas, even if unusual ones, seems to me as wrong as the parent idea that a metaphor has a special meaning. I agree with the view that metaphors cannot be paraphrased, but I think this is not because metaphors say something too novel for literal expression but because there is nothing there to paraphrase. Paraphrase, whether possible or not, inappropriate to what is said: we try, in paraphrase, to say it (...) another way. But if I am right, a metaphor doesn't say anything beyond its literal meaning . This is not, of course, to deny that a metaphor has a point, nor that that point can be brought out by using further words. . . . My disagreement is with the explanation of how metaphor works its wonders. To anticipate: I depend on the distinction between what words mean and what they are used to do. I think metaphor belongs exclusively to the domain of use. It is something brought off by the imaginative employment of words and sentences and depends entirely on the ordinary meanings of those words and hence on the ordinary meanings of the sentences they comprise. Donald Davidson is University Professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago. He is the author of many important essays, including "Actions, Reasons and Causes," "Causal Relations," and "Truth and Meaning," coauthor of Decision-Making: An Experimental Approach, and coeditor of Words and Objections, Semantics of Natural Language, and The Logic of Grammar. (shrink)