Poverty of the Stimulus Arguments have convinced many linguists and philosophers of language that a domain specific language acquisition device (LAD) is necessary to account for language learning. Here we review empirical evidence that casts doubt on the necessity of this domain specific device. We suggest that more attention needs to be paid to the early stages of language acquisition. Many seemingly innate language-related abilities have to be learned over the course of several months. Further, the language input contains rich (...) stochastic information that can be accessed by domain-general learning mechanisms. Computer simulation has shown how mechanisms that are not domain specific can exploit the information contained in language. We conclude that (i) Poverty of the Stimulus Arguments need to be conceptually clarified and (ii) more empirical research needs to be carried out before we can rule out that data driven general purpose mechanisms can account for language learning. (shrink)
Reading development is integral to a universal model of reading. Developmental research can tell us which factors drive reading acquisition and which are the product of reading. Like adult research, developmental research needs to be contextualised within the language and writing system and it needs to include key cross-linguistic evaluations. This will create a universal model of reading development.
In the last decade, reading research has seen a paradigmatic shift. A new wave of computational models of orthographic processing that offer various forms of noisy position or context-sensitive coding have revolutionized the field of visual word recognition. The influx of such models stems mainly from consistent findings, coming mostly from European languages, regarding an apparent insensitivity of skilled readers to letter order. Underlying the current revolution is the theoretical assumption that the insensitivity of readers to letter order reflects the (...) special way in which the human brain encodes the position of letters in printed words. The present article discusses the theoretical shortcomings and misconceptions of this approach to visual word recognition. A systematic review of data obtained from a variety of languages demonstrates that letter-order insensitivity is neither a general property of the cognitive system nor a property of the brain in encoding letters. Rather, it is a variant and idiosyncratic characteristic of some languages, mostly European, reflecting a strategy of optimizing encoding resources, given the specific structure of words. Since the main goal of reading research is to develop theories that describe the fundamental and invariant phenomena of reading across orthographies, an alternative approach to model visual word recognition is offered. The dimensions of a possible universal model of reading, which outlines the common cognitive operations involved in orthographic processing in all writing systems, are discussed. (shrink)
Helen Steward argues that determinism is incompatible with agency itself--not only the special human variety of agency, but also powers which can be accorded to animal agents. She offers a distinctive, non-dualistic version of libertarianism, rooted in a conception of what biological forms of organisation might make possible in the way of freedom.
James Tabery Helen Longino’s Studying Human Behavior is an overdue effort at a nonpartisan evaluation of the many scientific disciplines that study the nature and nurture of human behavior, arguing for the acceptance of the strengths and weaknesses of all approaches. After years of conflict, Longino makes the pluralist case for peaceful coexistence. Her analysis of the approaches raises the following question: how are we to understand the pluralistic relationship among the peacefully coexisting approaches? Longino is ironically rather unpluralistic about (...) her pluralism, forcing a choice between integrative pluralism and her preferred ineliminative pluralism. I hope to show that the analysis of approaches she offers actually accommodates a pluralism that is both integrative and ineliminative.Approaches to studying human behaviorPhilosophy of biology took shape as a discipline in the 1970s. This disciplinary formation over. (shrink)
A simple molecular system is described consisting of the reciprocal linkage between an autocatalytic cycle and a self-assembling encapsulation process where the molecular constituents for the capsule are products of the autocatalysis. In a molecular environment sufficiently rich in the substrates, capsule growth will also occur with high predictability. Growth to closure will be most probable in the vicinity of the most prolific autocatalysis and will thus tend to spontaneously enclose supportive catalysts within the capsule interior. If subsequently disrupted in (...) the presence of new substrates, the released components will initiate production of additional catalytic and capsule components that will spontaneously re-assemble into one or more autocell replicas, thereby reconstituting and sometimes reproducing the original. In a diverse molecular environment, cycles of disruption and enclosure will cause auto-cells to incidentally encapsulate other molecules as well as reactive substrates. To the extent that any captured molecule can be incorporated into the autocatalytic process by virtue of structural degeneracy of the catalytic binding sites, the altered autocell will incorporate the new type of component into subsequent replications. Such altered autocells will be progenitors of “lineages” with variant characteristics that will differentially propagate with respect to the availability of commonly required substrates. Autocells are susceptible to a limited form of evolution, capable of leading to more efficient, more environmentally fitted, and more complex forms. This provides a simple demonstration of the plausibility of open-ended reproduction and evolvability without self-replicating template molecules or maintenance of persistent nonequilibrium chemistry. This model identifies an intermediate domain between prebiotic and biotic systems and bridges the gap from nonequilibrium thermodynamics to life. (shrink)
Helen Steward puts forward a radical critique of the foundations of contemporary philosophy of mind, arguing that it relies too heavily on insecure assumptions about the sorts of things there are in the mind--events, processes, and states. She offers a fresh investigation of these three categories, clarifying the distinctions between them, and argues that the category of state has been very widely and seriously misunderstood.
The maze and the masses -- Democracy as the rule of the dumb many? -- A selective genealogy of the epistemic argument for democracy -- First mechanism of democratic reason: inclusive deliberation -- Epistemic failures of deliberation -- Second mechanism of democratic reason: majority rule.
In Studying Human Behavior, Helen E. Longino enters into the complexities of human behavioral research, a domain still dominated by the age-old debate of “nature versus nurture.” Rather than supporting one side or another or attempting..
A Darwinian theory of the evolution of language must be incremental: to explain the transition from a hominin baseline with great ape grade communicative capacities to language-equipped hominins as a series of small steps. This paper takes up that project for the special case of words, giving an incremental model of the call to word transition. The model is embedded in a general conception of human social evolution with independent empirical support, but it also depends on some more specific assumptions (...) about language and about the earlier forms of hominin communication. Given these assumptions, the paper can be no more than a working draft of a more complete theory. (shrink)
I have been asked to consider two questions: How Christian ‘oughts’ are related to Christian ‘is-es’, and, What does Christianity take flourishing to be? The background to these questions is that Christian ethics have traditionally been taken, both by supporters and opponents, as au ethic of creature-hood, sometimes quite crudely conceived. It is a sketch, but by no means a caricature, of a great deal of standard Christian thinking, to depict it as answering the two questions as follows: God is (...) your Creator: therefore you ought to obey him. The end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him for ever. (shrink)
This article examines the place of human and animal subjectivity in two autobiographically informed texts by Hélène Cixous. It takes her view on the word ‘human’ and the figure of Fips, the dog of the Cixous family, as a point of departure. By thinking through this figure, I argue, Cixous analyses the dehumanizing logic of colonialism and anti-Semitism in Algeria and develops her own response to such kinds of political evils, arguing for human relationality and animal corporeality. The article shows (...) that Cixous’ meeting with Fips creates a stigma that, belatedly, breaks through the barrier between herself and the dog; the reopening of the wound takes place in a poetical writing that reveals an intense ‘animal humanity’ formed by communal suffering, finiteness, and love. The lesson Cixous learns from the memory of Fips the dog is how to become ‘better human’. This becoming is also an assault on the false humanism of the colonial project and on racialized social exclusion. (shrink)
Most people believe that it is sometimes morally permissible for a person to use force to defend herself or others against harm. In Defensive Killing, Helen Frowe offers a detailed exploration of when and why the use of such force is permissible. She begins by considering the use of force between individuals, investigating both the circumstances under which an attacker forfeits her right not to be harmed, and the distinct question of when it is all-things-considered permissible to use force against (...) an attacker. Frowe then extends this enquiry to war, defending the view that we should judge the ethics of killing in war by the moral rules that govern killing between individuals. She argues that this requires us to significantly revise our understanding of the moral status of non-combatants in war. Non-combatants who intentionally contribute to an unjust war forfeit their rights not to be harmed, such that they are morally liable to attack by combatants fighting a just war. (shrink)
A computer can come to understand natural language the same way Helen Keller did: by using “syntactic semantics”—a theory of how syntax can suffice for semantics, i.e., how semantics for natural language can be provided by means of computational symbol manipulation. This essay considers real-life approximations of Chinese Rooms, focusing on Helen Keller’s experiences growing up deaf and blind, locked in a sort of Chinese Room yet learning how to communicate with the outside world. Using the SNePS computational knowledge-representation system, (...) the essay analyzes Keller’s belief that learning that “everything has a name” was the key to her success, enabling her to “partition” her mental concepts into mental representations of: words, objects, and the naming relations between them. It next looks at Herbert Terrace’s theory of naming, which is akin to Keller’s, and which only humans are supposed to be capable of. The essay suggests that computers at least, and perhaps non-human primates, are also capable of this kind of naming. (shrink)
Theses on the semiotic study of life as presented here provide a collectively formulated set of statements on what biology needs to be focused on in order to describe life as a process based on semiosis, or sign action. An aim of the biosemiotic approach is to explain how life evolves through all varieties of forms of communication and signification (including cellular adaptive behavior, animal communication, and human intellect) and to provide tools for grounding sign theories. We introduce the concept (...) of semiotic threshold zone and analyze the concepts of semiosis, function, umwelt, and the like as the basic concepts for theoretical biology. (shrink)
The Ethics of War and Peace is a lively introduction to one of the oldest but still most relevant ethical debates. Focusing on the philosophical questions surrounding the ethics of modern war, Helen Frowe presents contemporary just war theory in a stimulating and accessible way. This 2nd edition includes new material on weapons and technology, and humanitarian intervention, in addition to: theories of self-defence and national defence jus ad bellum, jus in bello and jus post bellum the moral status of (...) combatants the principle of non-combatant immunity and the nature of terrorism and the moral status of terrorists. Each chapter uses examples and concludes with a summary, discussion questions and suggestions for further reading to aid student engagement, learning and revision. The glossary has been expanded to cover the full range of relevant terminology. This is the ideal textbook for students of philosophy and politics approaching this important area for the first time. (shrink)
The paper considers and opposes the view that processes are best thought of as continuants, to be differentiated from events mainly by way of the fact that the latter, but not the former, are entities with temporal parts. The motivation for the investigation, though, is not so much the defeat of what is, in any case, a rather implausible claim, as the vindication of some of the ideas and intuitions that the claim is made in order to defend — and (...) the grounding of those ideas and intuitions in a more plausible metaphysics than is provided by the continuant view. It is argued that in addition to a distinction between events and processes there is room and need for a third category, that of the individual process, which can be illuminatingly compared with the idea of a substance. Individual processes indeed share important metaphysical features with substantial continuants, but they do not lack temporal parts. Instead, it is argued that individual processes share with substantial continuants an important property I call ‘modal robustness in virtue of form’. The paper explains what this property is, and further suggests that the category of individual process, thus understood, might be of considerable value to the philosophy of action. (shrink)
Consensus plays an ambiguous role in deliberative democracy. While it formed the horizon of early deliberative theories, many now denounce it as an empirically unachievable outcome, a logically impossible stopping rule, and a normatively undesirable ideal. Deliberative disagreement, by contrast, is celebrated not just as an empirically unavoidable outcome but also as a democratically sound and normatively desirable goal of deliberation. Majority rule has generally displaced unanimity as the ideal way of bringing deliberation to a close. This article offers an (...) epistemic perspective on this question of consensus versus disagreement. For ensuring the production of better decisions, we argue, the normative appeal of consensus varies depending on the deliberative task – whether it entails problem solving or prediction. We argue that in pure problem-solving contexts, consensus retains a strong normative appeal and forms the ideal deliberative outcome of deliberation. In contrast, on predictive tasks, consensus should generally not be used as a stopping rule noris it likely to be epistemically desirable as an outcome. Instead deliberators may be better served by ending the deliberation with a form of deliberative disagreement we call ‘positive dissensus’, which paves the way for more accurate aggregate predictions. (shrink)
Hume is traditionally credited with inventing the ‘regularity theory’ of causation, according to which the causal relation between two events consists merely in the fact that events of the first kind are always followed by events of the second kind. Hume is also traditionally credited with two other, hugely influential positions: the view that the world appears to us as a world of unconnected events, and inductive scepticism: the view that the ‘problem of induction’, the problem of providing a justification (...) for inference from observed to unobserved regularities, is insoluble. Hume on Causation is the first major work dedicated to Hume’s views on causation in over fifteen years, and it argues that Hume does not subscribe to any of these three views. It places Hume’s interest in causation within the context of his theory of the mind and his theory of causal reasoning, arguing that Hume’s conception of causation derives from his conception of the nature of the inference from causes to effects. (shrink)
Causation is a central topic in many areas of philosophy. In metaphysics, philosophers want to know what causation is, and how it is related to laws of nature, probability, action, and freedom of the will. In epistemology, philosophers investigate how causal claims can be inferred from statistical data, and how causation is related to perception, knowledge and explanation. In the philosophy of mind, philosophers want to know whether and how the mind can be said to have causal efficacy, and in (...) ethics, whether there is a moral distinction between acts and omissions and whether the moral value of an act can be judged according to its consequences. And causation is a contested concept in other fields of enquiry, such as biology, physics, and the law. This book provides an in-depth and comprehensive overview of these and other topics, as well as the history of the causation debate from the ancient Greeks to the logical empiricists. The chapters provide surveys of contemporary debates, while often also advancing novel and controversial claims; and each includes a comprehensive bibliography and suggestions for further reading. The book is thus the most comprehensive source of information about causation currently available, and will be invaluable for upper-level undergraduates through to professional philosophers. (shrink)
Kalevi Kull and colleagues recently proposed eight theses as a conceptual basis for the field of biosemiotics. We use these theses as a framework for discussing important current areas of debate in biosemiotics with particular reference to the articles collected in this issue of Zygon.
The Habits of Racism examines some of the complex questions raised by the phenomenon and experience of racism. Helen Ngo argues that the conceptual reworking of habit as bodily orientation helps to identify the more subtle but fundamental workings of racism, exploring what the lived experience of racism and racialization teaches about the nature of the embodied and socially-situated being.
Helen Frowe has recently offered what she calls a “practical” account of self-defense. Her account is supposed to be practical by being subjectivist about permissibility and objectivist about liability. I shall argue here that Frowe first makes up a problem that does not exist and then fails to solve it. To wit, her claim that objectivist accounts of permissibility cannot be action-guiding is wrong; and her own account of permissibility actually retains an objectivist (in the relevant sense) element. In addition, (...) her attempt to restrict subjectivism primarily to “urgent” situations like self-defense contradicts her own point of departure and is either incoherent or futile. Finally, the only actual whole-heartedly objectivist account she criticizes is an easy target; while those objectivist accounts one finds in certain Western European jurisdictions are immune to her criticisms. Those accounts are also clearly superior to hers in terms of action-guidingness. (shrink)
The paper argues that actions should be thought of as processes and not events. A number of reasons are offered for thinking that the things that it is most plausible to suppose we are trying to cotton on to with the generic talk of ‘actions’ in which philosophy indulges cannot be events. A framework for thinking about the event-process distinction which can help us understand how we ought to think about the ontology of processes we need instead is then developed, (...) building on some excellent work already done by philosophers working at the intersection of philosophy and linguistics. (shrink)
Essentialism--roughly, the view that natural kinds have discrete essences, generating truths that are necessary but knowable only _a posteriori_--is an increasingly popular view in the metaphysics of science. At the same time, philosophers of language have been subjecting Kripke’s views about the existence and scope of the necessary _a posteriori_ to rigorous analysis and criticism. Essentialists typically appeal to Kripkean semantics to motivate their radical extension of the realm of the necessary _a posteriori_; but they rarely attempt to provide any (...) semantic arguments for this extension, or engage with the critical work being done by philosophers of language. This collection brings authors on both sides together in one volume, thus helping the reader to see the connections between views in philosophy of language on the one hand and the metaphysics of science on the other. The result is a book that will have a significant impact on the debate about essentialism, encouraging essentialists to engage with debates about the semantic presuppositions that underpin their position, and, encouraging philosophers of language to engage with the metaphysical presuppositions enshrined in Kripkean semantics. (shrink)
In this article, I examine the historiographical ideas of the historian of chemistry Hélène Metzger against the background of the ideas of the members of the groups and institutions in which she worked, including Alexandre Koyré, Gaston Bachelard, Abel Rey, Henri Berr and Lucien Febrve. This article is on two interdependent levels: that of particular institutions and groups in which she worked and the École Pratique des Hautes Études) and that of historiographical ideas. I individuate two particular theoretical aspirations pursued (...) by the historians in Metzger's milieu: the ideal of total history and the study of the human mind. These two objectives were seen by Metzger and many others as implicating each other. Moreover, Metzger and other historians wanted to integrate the practice of commentary of texts in the realisations of those ideals. I argue, however, that these objectives proved very difficult to realise at the same time. One tradition which stemmed out of these discussions, exemplified by Bachelard, Canguilhem and Foucault, focused on the mind and knowledge, and renounced commentary of texts and total history as it was understood by the historians of the Centre de Synthèse. The latter, however, did not really pursue the study of the mind. Moreover, historians like Metzger and Koyré who practised an attentive analysis of texts could not realise total history. (shrink)