Ernst Mayr''s distinction between ultimate and proximate causes is justly considered a major contribution to philosophy of biology. But how did Mayr come to this philosophical distinction, and what role did it play in his earlier scientific work? I address these issues by dividing Mayr''s work into three careers or phases: 1) Mayr the naturalist/researcher, 2) Mayr the representative of and spokesman for evolutionary biology and systematics, and more recently 3) Mayr the historian and philosopher of biology. If we (...) want to understand the role of the proximate/ultimate distinction in Mayr''s more recent career as a philosopher and historian, then it helps to consider hisearlier use of the distinction, in the course of his research, and in his promotion of the professions of evolutionary biology and systematics. I believe that this approach would also shed light on some other important philosophical positions that Mayr has defended, including the distinction between essentialism: and population thinking. (shrink)
Ernst Mayr''s scientific career continues strongly 70 years after he published his first scientific paper in 1923. He is primarily a naturalist and ornithologist which has influenced his basic approach in science and later in philosophy and history of science. Mayr studied at the Natural History Museum in Berlin with Professor E. Stresemann, a leader in the most progressive school of avian systematics of the time. The contracts gained through Stresemann were central to Mayr''s participation in a three year (...) expedition to New Guinea and The Solomons, and the offer of a position in the Department of Ornithology, American Museum of Natural History, beginning in 1931. At the AMNH, Mayr was able to blend the best of the academic traditions of Europe with those of North America in developing a unified research program in biodiversity embracing systematics, biogeography and nomenclature. His tasks at the AMNH were to curate and study the huge collections amassed by the Whitney South Sea Expedition plus the just purchased Rothschild collection of birds. These studies provided Mayr with the empirical foundation essential for his 1942Systematics and the Origin of Species and his subsequent theoretical work in evolutionary biology as well as all his later work in the philosophy and history of science. Without a detailed understanding of Mayr''s empirical systematic and biogeographic work, one cannot possibly comprehend fully his immense contributions to evolutionary biology and his later analyses in the philosophy and history of science. (shrink)
Ernst H. Gombrich criticized abstract painting with several remarks scattered around his wide oeuvre. I argue that his view of abstract paintings is coherent with the account of pictorial representation he put forward in Art and Illusion, show some limits of such view, and maintain that, although several of Gombrich’s criticisms of abstract painting should be rejected, some of his remarks are insightful and worth of consideration.
The correspondence between Edgar Anderson and Ernst Mayr leading into their 1941 Jesup Lectures on “Systematics and the Origin of Species” addressed population thinking, the nature of species, the relationship of microevolution to macroevolution, and the evolutionary dynamics of plants and animals, all central issues in what came to be known as the Evolutionary Synthesis. On some points, they found ready agreement; for others they forged only a short term consensus. They brought two different working styles to this project (...) reflecting their different appreciations of what was possible at this point in evolutionary studies. For Mayr, it was a focused project with definitive short term conclusions imminent while Anderson viewed it as an episode in an ongoing historical process that, while exciting and suggestive, remained openended. Thus, Mayr and Anderson represent two distinct perspectives on the Evolutionary Synthesis in formation; by understanding both of their points of view, we can grasp more fully the state of evolutionary theory at this key moment. (shrink)
Ernst Mayr''s historical writings began in 1935 with his essay Bernard Altum and the territory theory and have continued up through his monumentalGrowth of Biological Thought (1982) and hisOne Long Argument: Charles Darwin and the Genesis of Modern Evolutionary Thought (1991). Sweeping in their scope, forceful in their interpretation, enlisted on behalf of the clarification of modern concepts and of a broad view of biology, these writings provide both insights and challenges for the historian of biology. Mayr''s general intellectual (...) formation was guided by the GermanBildung ideal, with its emphasis on synthetic and comprehensive knowledge. His understanding of how to write history was inspired further by the example of the historian of ideas Arthur Lovejoy. Some strengths and limitations of this approach are explored here through attention to Mayr''s treatment of the French biologist J.-B. Lamarck. It is contended that Mayr''s contributions to the history of biology are not restricted to his own very substantial historical writings but also include his encouragement of other scholars, his development of an invaluable archive of scientific correspondence, and his insistence that historians who write about evolution and related subjects acquire an adequate understanding of the principles of Darwinian biology. (shrink)
In his Contributions to the Analysis of the Sensations (Mach 1885) the phenomenalist philosopher Ernst Mach confronts us with a difficulty: “If we regard the Ego as a real unity, we become involved in the following dilemma: either we must set over against the Ego a world of unknowable entities […] or we must regard the whole world, the Egos of other people included, as comprised in our own Ego.” (Mach 1885: 21) In other words, if we start from (...) a phenomenalist viewpoint, i.e., if we believe that the manifold of sensations we are confronted with is ontologically fundamental —as Mach clearly does: “For us, colors, sounds, spaces, times,… are the ultimate ele-ments” (Mach 1885: 23)—then we are in danger to end up in solipsism. Unless, that is, we assume that some underlying thing-in-itself substratum from which matter, we ourselves, and all the others emanate. The only other alter-native seems to be—and Mach advertises it vehemently for he denies any “mons-trous notion of a thing-in-itself” (Mach 1885: 6)1—that we get rid of the Ego. For, if there is no Self in the first place, then the question whether there are others dissolves. To put it the other way round, it is ok that the others do not exist because, really, I do not exist either. If the Ego is a Myth solipsism is not just wrong but nonsense. There are two questions this paper wishes to address: first, do we need independent additional support for the denial of the Self or is the avoidance of solipsism reason enough to assume the Ego’s non-existence? I will argue that we do need additional reasons and I will evaluate those that Mach indeed gives to prove that “the primary fact is not the I, the Ego, but the elements (sensations)” (Mach 1885: 19). Second, is the deconstruction of the I, even if further sufficient support can be found, really adequate to stop us from worrying about solipsism? The doubt I will put forward is that the illusion of a Self might conjure up enough of an Ego—just like feeling a pain is having a pain, even if it is located in a phantom limb—to start us wondering whether it also occurs elsewhere. (shrink)
In seiner Kritik der naturwissenschaftlichen Erkenntnis besteht Troeltschs Leistung darin, eine traditionelle Begrifflichkeit unter schon gewandelten Bedingungen auf die Reichweite ihrer Anwendbarkeit hin zu hinterfragen. Ich werde im ersten Teil den von ihm konstruierten Gegensatz von Natur und Geschichte thesenhaft skizzieren, soweit er im ersten Kapitel von »Der Historismus und seine Probleme« ausgeführt ist (1.). In einem zweiten Teil möchte ich dann einige Elemente hervorheben, die zur Vermittlung des Entgegengesetzten geeignet sind, ohne zu dessen Aufhebung zu führen. Sie verweisen auf (...) philosophische Gehalte, die in ein Natur und Geschichte umfassendes System der Erkenntnis aufzunehmen wären (2.). (shrink)
In the middle of the nineteenth century, advances in experimental psychology and the physiology of the sense organs inspired so-called "Back to Kant" Neo-Kantians to articulate robustly psychologistic visions of Kantian epistemology. But their accounts of the thing in itself were fraught with deep tension: they wanted to conceive of things in themselves as the causes of our sensations, while their own accounts of causal inference ruled that claim out. This paper diagnoses the source of that problem in views of (...) one Neo-Kantian, F. A. Lange, and argues that it is solved only by Ernst Mach. No less than Lange and other Neo-Kantians, Mach was inspired to develop a psychologistic account of the foundations of knowledge, but his account also includes a coherent denial of things in themselves' existence. Finally, this paper uses this account of Lange and Mach on things in themselves to illuminate Mach's relation to a certain strain of the Neo-Kantian philosophy of his own time: his views constitute a more fully coherent version of the psychologistic theory of knowledge Back to Kant figures tried to articulate. (shrink)
Ernst Bloch is perhaps best known for his subtle and imaginative investigation of utopias and utpoianism, but his work also provides a comprehensive and insightful analysis of Western culture, politics and society. Yet, because he has not been one of the easiest writers to read, his full contribution has not been widely acknowledged. In this critical and accessible introduction to one of the most fascinating thinkers of the twentieth century, Vincent Geoghegan unravels much of the mystery of the man (...) and his ideas. (shrink)
This paper aims to reconstruct Ernst Cassirer’s theory of art against the backdrop of the systematic question of what overall contribution art can make to man’s relation to the world. It will be shown that for Cassirer, the productive benefit of art is essentially developing new sensuous skills of perception when dealing with art. In Essay on Man Cassirer gives three central determinations to sketch out this idea. This paper argues, that in order to render Cassirer’s concept of productive (...) art intelligible, one has to show these determinations as conceptually interrelated. Moreover, based on these three determinations this paper outlines three criteria that a satisfactory concept of productive art has to meet. (shrink)
This article explores and discusses Tim Burton's film Edward Scissorhands by applying a Georg Simmel/Ernst Bloch analysis. Aside from each of the philosophical approaches serving as insightful analyses of the symbolism and narrative of the film, it is also theoretically useful to compare and unpack the similarities and differences in aspects of both Simmel's and Bloch's philosophical ideas and metaphors, influenced by their collaboratory experiences; Bloch became associated with Georg Simmel in 1908. The association and friendship with Simmel lasted (...) until 1911; at this time Bloch became increasingly disillusioned with Simmel's apparent inability to commit to any particular philosophical position. Correspondence finally drew to a close when Simmel openly supported the war policy of Imperial Germany in 1914. The influences of many of Simmel's ideas in relation to the development of Bloch's philosophy are implicitly noticeable in the cross-referencing of similar ideas, metaphors and themes. This article will suggest and tentatively work through aspects of some similarities and differences. The aim of this comparison and contrast of Simmel in relation to Bloch via Edward Scissorhands, will also serve to highlight Bloch's philosophical departure from Simmel's fragments. By exploring and discussing Simmel's essays 'The Aesthetic Significance of the Face', 'The Ruin' and 'The Stranger,' in the context of Edward Scissorhands, I will suggest that the film can be seen as a particularly poignant and effective cultural metaphor of not only the problematic nature of human ideals, but also urban ennui and disconnectedness. By comparison, the Blochian treatment of Edward Scissorhands will emphasise the Gothic, the radical stridency of Youth, and, potential utopian possibilities that are, so far, 'Not-Yet'. These frameworks will suggest that Edward Scissorhands be understood as a beautiful-monster, a cultural refraction of the utopian incognito of Not-Yet articulated future possibilities. (shrink)
Sensationalistic Phenomenalism and Economy of Thought. On Ernst Mach's Concept of Science. Ernst Mach, natural scientist and major precursor of the Vienna Circle, never wants to be a philosopher. Nevertheless his writings are full of valuable hints for a modern theory of human knowledge – with respect to economical, historical and evolutionary aspects. His kind of phenomenalism is sensationalistic, monistic and instrumentalistic. This article deals with some contributions of his approach to actual debates in the general philosophy of (...) science. (shrink)
Purpose: Appreciating the relationship between Sylvio Ceccato and Ernst von Glasersfeld, both as people and in their work. Approach: historical and personal accounts, archeological approach to written evidence. Findings: Ceccato’s work is introduced to an English speaking audience, and the roots of Glasersfeld’s work in Ceccato’s is explored. Flaws in Ceccato’s approach are indicated, together with how Glasersfeld’s work overcomes these, specially in language and automatic translation, and what became Radical Constructivism. Conclusion: Glasersfeld willingly acknowledges Ceccato, who he still (...) refers to as the Master. But Ceccato’s work is little known, specially in the English speaking world. The introduction, critique and delineation of extension and resolution of Ceccato’s ideas in Glasersfeld’s work is the intended value of the paper. (shrink)
I shall write about my first meeting with Ernst von Glasersfeld, and how his comments then on my doctoral study continue to help me clarify what it is I am trying to talk about; how he challenged me to pursue what has turned out to be my life’s work so far; and about how these seem to me now to fit in with that constellation of ideas.
Purpose: At Silvio Ceccato’s suggestion, I invited Ernst von Glasersfeld to the “Séminaire Leibniz” which took place in Brussels, in February 1961. The paper he delivered then, Operational Semantics: Analysis of Meaning in Terms of Operations, was included in a Euratom internal report and is published here for the first time. Conclusion: These early works clearly show von Glasersfeld’s methodological and philosophical coherence as well as his faithfulness to Ceccato’s endeavour.
Inwieweit vermag sich der ehemalige explanative Erfolg nicht mehr anerkannter Theorien auf die Geltung derjenigen Teilaussagen, die Nachfolgetheorien übernommen haben, zu stützen? Zur Klärung dieser Fragestellung können die Ergebnisse von Machs Untersuchung zur mechanistischen Auffassung des Energieerhaltungssatzes herangezogen werden. Indem er sich in seiner Kritik an den ontologischen Annahmen des Mechanismus auf die Wissenschaftsgeschichte beruft, steht er einer heutigen realismuskritischen Argumentation nahe. Andererseits mißt er den hypothesenfreien Theoriebestandteilen einen Geltungscharakter zu, der in seinem Wahrheitsanspruch durchaus mit einer heutigen realistischen Behauptung (...) theorieübergreifender Bestände der wissenschaftlichen Erkenntnis vergleichbar ist. Daß Mach mit einer quer zur gegnwärtigen Terminologie liegenden Analyse einen Beitrag zur Entschärfung gegenwärtiger Kontroversen leistet, läßt eine erneute Vergegenwärtigung der Schrift von 1872 und den sich daran anschließenden Überlegungen Machs lohnenswert erscheinen. (shrink)
Research into learners' ideas about science suggests that students often have alternative conceptions about important science concepts. Because of this dissatisfaction, constructivism has been adopted as a theoretical framework by many teachers and researchers, and it has had a curricular influence in many countries. Constructivism is much more than an educational doctrine and we are aware that a ‘science war’ about the possibility of objectivity is in progress. ‘Constructivism’ cannot necessary be a package deal: it must be possible to accept (...) educational suggestions deemed useful without buying all the epistemology or the metaphysical implications. The claim that cognitive agents understand the world by constructing mental representations of it can be a shared suggestion for changing science instruction. Many teachers are much more concerned in finding productive teaching methods than about philosophical questions as if knowledge must be considered an objective representation of the real world or not. We have to ponder if some ideas from the constructivist theory of instruction can help instructors to become better teachers. The pragmatic suggestions that come from the constructivist theory of instruction developed by von Glasersfeld, the leading proponent of radical constructivism, could be a good start in this␣search. (shrink)
O texto compõe-se de duas partes: 1) uma introdução sobre Ernst Tugendhat, seu percurso e seu trabalho, bem como seu envolvimento com o ensino da filosofia entre nós; e 2) um depoimento do filósofo alemão sobre o ensino de filosofia na universidade, apresentando suas opiniões e sua vasta experiência a respeito. Para ele, como para o introdutor, em vez de resumir-se essencialmente ao aprendizado da história da filosofia e à leitura dos grandes filósofos, o ensino dessa disciplina – algo (...) como uma “arte” – deveria incluir, desde o começo, o exercício da argumentação sobre temas e problemas e a redação de textos curtos nessa linha. (shrink)
Ernst Troeltsch's essay on socialism presents a summary account of his views on the prospects for a socialist economic order within the Weimar Republic. Troeltsch attempts to formulate a compromise that incorporates the proposals of both social conservatism and communism. Such a compromise, he insists, is possible on the basis of a realistic assessment of socialism supported by "an act of faith in the future" based upon explicitly religious resources. This essay is significant not only in relation to the (...) "religious socialism" then discussed in Germany, but also for the development of "political theology" today. (shrink)
Die mit 126 Briefen und Gegenbriefen fast luckenlos erhaltene Geschaftskorrespondenz des Philosophen Ernst Bloch (1885 -1977) mit dem Aufbau-Verlag Berlin ist ein buch- und verlagsgeschichtliches Zeitdokument erster Ordnung: Es belegt alle ...