John Searle has argued that functions owe their existence to the value that we put into life and survival. In this paper, I will provide a critique of Searle’s argument concerning the ontology of functions. I rely on a standard analysis of functional predicates as relating not only a biological entity (e.g., the heart), an activity that constitutes the function of this entity (e.g., pumping blood) and a type of system but also a goal state (e.g., survival or evolutionary fitness). (...) A functional attribution without specification of such a goal state has no truth-value. But if completed with a goal state, functional attributions understood as four-place relations attain a truth-value. The truth conditions of all attributions of function involve a dependence claim of the goal state on the function bearer's activity. The nature of this dependence may differ; I consider five different possibilities: causality, mechanistic constitution, mereology, supervenience and metaphysical grounding. If these dependency relations are objective, Searle’s central ontological thesis fails. What he ought to have said is that our valuing survival or other goal states may be the reason why biology seeks functional knowledge, but this has nothing to do with ontology. I will show further that Searle also raised an interesting challenge concerning the relationship of functional and causal truths, but it does not threaten the objectivity of functions either. At best, it could show that functional vocabulary is eliminable. However, I will show that functional vocabulary is not so eliminable. (shrink)
This article examines the role of experimental generalizations and physical laws in neuroscientific explanations, using Hodgkin and Huxley’s electrophysiological model from 1952 as a test case. I show that the fact that the model was partly fitted to experimental data did not affect its explanatory status, nor did the false mechanistic assumptions made by Hodgkin and Huxley. The model satisfies two important criteria of explanatory status: it contains invariant generalizations and it is modular (both in James Woodward’s sense). Further, I (...) argue that there is a sense in which the explanatory heteronomy thesis holds true for this case. †To contact the author, please write to: SNF‐Professorship for Philosophy of Science, University of Basel, Missionsstrasse 21, 4003 Basel, Switzerland; e‐mail: email@example.com. (shrink)
Causal selection is the task of picking out, from a field of known causally relevant factors, some factors as the actual causes of an event or class of events or the causes that "make the difference". The Causal Parity Thesis in the philosophy of biology is basically the claim that there are no grounds for such a selection. The main target of this thesis is usually gene centrism, the doctrine that genes play some special role in ontogeny, which is often (...) described in terms of information-bearing or programming. This paper is concerned with the attempt of refuting the Causal Parity Thesis by offering principles of causal selection that are spelled out in terms of an explicit philosophical account of causation, namely an interventionist account. I show that two such accounts that have been developed, although they contain important insights about causation in biology, nonetheless fail to refute the Causal Parity Thesis: Ken Waters's account of actual difference-making and Jim Woodward's account of causal specificity. A combination of the two also doesn't do the trick, nor does David Lewis's original notion of influence. We need additional conceptual resources. I argue that the resources we need consist in a special class of counterfactual conditionals, namely counterfactuals the antecedents of which describe biologically normal interventions. (shrink)
Griffiths et al. (2015) have proposed a quantitative measure of causal specificity and used it to assess various attempts to single out genetic causes as being causally more specific than other cellular mechanisms, for example, alternative splicing. Focusing in particular on developmental processes, they have identified a number of important challenges for this project. In this discussion note, I would like to show how these challenges can be met.
Although Whitehead’s particular style of philosophizing--looking at traditional philosophical problems in light of recent scientific advances--was part of a trend that began with the scientific revolutions in the early 20th century and continues today, he was marginalized in 20th century philosophy because of his outspoken defense of what he was doing as “metaphysics.” Metaphysics, for Whitehead, is a cross-disciplinary hermeneutic responsible for coherently integrating the perspectives of the special sciences with one another and with everyday experience. The program of such (...) a meta-discipline is challenging to philosophical orthodoxy because it enlarges, rather than narrows, the range of empirical evidence that philosophy must acknowledge. This places Whitehead’s philosophy in a perennial tradition that seeks to resolve fundamental antinomies through synthesis and reconciliation rather than reduction or elimination. (shrink)
Going back at least to Duhem, there is a tradition of thinking that crucial experiments are impossible in science. I analyse Duhem's arguments and show that they are based on the excessively strong assumption that only deductive reasoning is permissible in experimental science. This opens the possibility that some principle of inductive inference could provide a sufficient reason for preferring one among a group of hypotheses on the basis of an appropriately controlled experiment. To be sure, there are analogues to (...) Duhem's problems that pertain to inductive inference. Using a famous experiment from the history of molecular biology as an example, I show that an experimentalist version of inference to the best explanation (IBE) does a better job in handling these problems than other accounts of scientific inference. Furthermore, I introduce a concept of experimental mechanism and show that it can guide inferences from data within an IBE-based framework for induction. Introduction Duhem on the Logic of Crucial Experiments ‘The Most Beautiful Experiment in Biology’ Why Not Simple Elimination? Severe Testing An Experimentalist Version of IBE 6.1 Physiological and experimental mechanisms 6.2 Explaining the data 6.3 IBE and the problem of untested auxiliaries 6.4 IBE-turtles all the way down Van Fraassen's ‘Bad Lot’ Argument IBE and Bayesianism Conclusions CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
This paper examines causal theories of reference with respect to how plausible an account they give of non-physical natural kind terms such as ‘gene’ as well as of the truth of the associated theoretical claims. I first show that reference fixism for ‘gene’ fails. By this, I mean the claim that the reference of ‘gene’ was stable over longer historical periods, for example, since the classical period of transmission genetics. Second, I show that the theory of partial reference does not (...) do justice to some widely held realist intuitions about classical genetics. This result is at loggerheads with the explicit goals usually associated with partial theories of reference, which is to defend a realist semantics for scientific terms. Thirdly, I show that, contrary to received wisdom and perhaps contrary to physics and chemistry, neither reference fixism nor partial reference are necessary in order to hold on to scientific realism about biology. I pinpoint the reasons for this in the nature of biological kinds, which do not even remotely resemble natural kinds (i.e., Lockean real essences) as traditionally conceived. (shrink)
Contemporary political philosophers disagree about whether theories of justice should be utopian or realistic. Contributors to this volume largely deny that the choice between realism and idealism is binary. Their contributions represent a continuum between realism and idealism that best represents the contemporary state of the debate.
I present a reconstruction of F.H.C. Crick's two 1957 hypotheses "Sequence Hypothesis" and "Central Dogma" in terms of a contemporary philosophical theory of causation. Analyzing in particular the experimental evidence that Crick cited, I argue that these hypotheses can be understood as claims about the actual difference-making cause in protein synthesis. As these hypotheses are only true if restricted to certain nucleic acids in certain organisms, I then examine the concept of causal specificity and its potential to counter claims about (...) causal parity of DNA and other cellular components. I first show that causal specificity is a special kind of invariance under interventions, namely invariance of generalizations that range over finite sets of discrete variables. Then, I show that this notion allows the articulation of a middle ground in the debate over causal parity. (shrink)
Experimental modeling in biology involves the use of living organisms (not necessarily so-called "model organisms") in order to model or simulate biological processes. I argue here that experimental modeling is a bona fide form of scientific modeling that plays an epistemic role that is distinct from that of ordinary biological experiments. What distinguishes them from ordinary experiments is that they use what I call "in vivo representations" where one kind of causal process is used to stand in for a physically (...) different kind of process. I discuss the advantages of this approach in the context of evolutionary biology. (shrink)
This paper intends to give a philosophical analysis of the concepts of consciousness and rationality, and particularly to display the correlation existing between what is usually called the “normal state of consciousness” and what should be called the “normal state of rationality”. Eventually, it draws consequences for the correlation existing between “altered/aberrant states of consciousness” and “altered/aberrant rationality”. Although it argues from a broad phenomenological perspective, its grounding technicalities belong to the field of process thought, as fleshed out by the (...) later Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947). (shrink)
Recent discussion of the statistical character of evolutionary theory has centered around two positions: (1) Determinism combined with the claim that the statistical character is eliminable, a subjective interpretation of probability, and instrumentalism; (2) Indeterminism combined with the claim that the statistical character is ineliminable, a propensity interpretation of probability, and realism. I point out some internal problems in these positions and show that the relationship between determinism, eliminability, realism, and the interpretation of probability is more complex than previously assumed (...) in this debate. Furthermore, I take some initial steps towards a more adequate account of the statistical character of evolutionary theory. (shrink)
I examine to what extent accounts of mechanisms based on formal interventionist theories of causality can adequately represent biological mechanisms with complex dynamics. Using a differential equation model for a circadian clock mechanism as an example, I first show that there exists an iterative solution that can be interpreted as a structural causal model. Thus, in principle it is possible to integrate causal difference-making information with dynamical information. However, the differential equation model itself lacks the right modularity properties for a (...) full integration. A formal mechanistic model will therefore either have to leave out non-causal or causal explanatory relations. (shrink)
Ich rekonstruiere und kritisiere Hans Drieschs Argumentation für die Behauptung, daß biologischen Prozessen nur eine substanzdualistische Ontologie der belebten Materie (Vitalismus) gerecht werden kann. Meine Diagnose lautet, daß Drieschs Argumentation zwar logisch schlüssig ist bzw. durch leichte Modifikationen in eine logisch gültige Form gebracht werden kann, aber von empirisch unbegründeten, metaphysischen Prämissen über die Möglichkeiten eines energieumwandelnden Mechanismus ausgeht.
I examine the adequacy of the causal graph-structural equations approach to causation for modeling biological mechanisms. I focus in particular on mechanisms with complex dynamics such as the PER biological clock mechanism in Drosophila. I show that a quantitative model of this mechanism that uses coupled differential equations – the well-known Goldbeter model – cannot be adequately represented in the standard causal graph framework, even though this framework does permit causal cycles. The reason is that the model contains dynamical information (...) about the mechanism that concerns causal properties but that does not correspond to variables that could be subject to independent interventions. Thus, a representation of the mechanisms as a causal structural model necessarily suppresses causally relevant information. (shrink)
Max Weber (1864-1920), generally known as a founder of modern social science, was concerned with political affairs throughout his life. The texts in this edition span his career and include his early inaugural lecture The Nation State and Economic Policy, Suffrage and Democracy in Germany, Parliament and Government in Germany under a New Political Order, Socialism, The Profession and Vocation of Politics, and an excerpt from his essay The Situation of Constitutional Democracy in Russia, as well as other shorter writings. (...) Together they illustrate the development of his thinking on the fate of Germany and the nature of politics in the modern western state in an age of cultural 'disenchantment'. The introduction discusses the central themes of Weber's political thought, and a chronology, notes and an annotated bibliography place him in his political and intellectual context. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that Martha Nussbaums Aristotelian analysis of compassion and pity is faulty, largely because she fails to distinguish between (a) an emotions basic constitutive conditions and the associated constitutive or intrinsic norms, (b) extrinsic normative conditions, for instance, instrumental and moral considerations, and (c) the causal conditions under which emotion is most likely to be experienced. I also argue that her defense of compassion and pity as morally valuable emotions is inadequate because she treats a wide (...) variety of objections as all stemming from a common commitment to a Stoic conception of the good. I argue that these objections can be construed as neutral between conceptions of the good. I conclude by arguing that construed in this way there are nonetheless plausible replies to these objections. (shrink)
I want to exhibit the deeper metaphysical reasons why some common ways of describing the causal role of genes in development and evolution are problematic. Specifically, I show why using the concept of information in an intentional sense in genetics is inappropriate, even given a naturalistic account of intentionality. Furthermore, I argue that descriptions that use notions such as programming, directing or orchestrating are problematic not for empirical reasons, but because they are not strictly causal. They are intentional. By contrast, (...) other notions that are part of the received view in genetics and evolutionary theory are defensible if understood correctly, in particular the idea that genes are the main replicators in evolution. The paper concludes that dropping all intentional or intentionally laden concepts does not force us to accept the so-called causal parity thesis, at least not in its stronger form. (shrink)
Larry Temkin has shown that Derek Parfit’s well-known Mere Addition Paradox suggests a powerful argument for the intransitivity of the relation “better than.” The crux of the argument is the view that equality is essentially comparative, according to which the same inequality can be evaluated differently depending on what it is being compared to. The comparative view of equality should be rejected, I argue, and hence so too this argument for intransitivity.
For more than 100 years, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism has set the parameters for the debate over the origins of modern capitalism. Now more timely and thought-provoking than ever, this esteemed classic of twentieth-century social science examines the deep cultural "frame of mind" that influences work life to this day in northern America and Western Europe. Stephen Kalberg's internationally acclaimed translation captures the essence of Weber's style as well as the subtlety of his descriptions and causal (...) arguments. Now, for the first time in one volume, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism with Other Writings on the Rise of the West integrates Weber's exploration of the spirit of capitalism's origins with his larger project: a multi-causal analysis of the West's distinctiveness and its sources. Weber's texts present wide-ranging discussions on the Western city, state, forms of rulership and law, and modes of economic innovation. Moreover, in many selections Weber offers in-depth and insightful comparisons to China and India. Readings on the "economic ethics" of Confucianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Catholicism further illuminate the distinct qualities of the West's trajectory and its diverse causes. A separate section examines the long-range influence of the ascetic Protestant sects and churches on American society.To draw readers into the material, this engaging volume includes extended introductions by the editor, many new translations, a chronology of Weber's life, an expanded glossary and bibliography, and numerous clarifying endnotes. In addition, Kalberg addresses a variety of debates concerning the central elements of contemporary life. Ideal for courses in sociology, anthropology, political science, history, international relations, and economics, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism with Other Writings on the Rise of the West is an essential resource for anyone seeking to understand the origins and endurance of the modern West. (shrink)
This paper outlines the often striking parallels of various approaches to ontic vagueness, as well as their even more striking differences. Though circling around the same idea, some of these approaches were developed to solve quite diverse theoretical problems and encounter different challenges. In addition to these difficulties, the frequently disregarded epistemological problems of all theories of ontic vagueness turn out to be even more serious under critical scrutiny. The same holds for the difficulties of deciding, for every case of (...) vagueness, whether the vagueness involved is semantic or ontic. (shrink)
Incommensurability of scientific theories, as conceived by Thomas Kuhnand Paul Feyerabend, is thought to be a major or even insurmountable obstacletothe empirical comparison of these theories. I examine this problem in light ofaconcrete case from the history of experimental biology, namely the oxidativephosphorylation controversy in biochemistry (ca. 1961-1977). After a briefhistorical exposition, I show that the two main competing theories which werethe subject of the ox-phos controversy instantiate some of the characteristicfeatures of incommensurable theories, namely translation failure,non-corresponding predictions, and different (...) claims about what kinds ofentitiesexist in the world. By examining how the controversy was eventually resolved, Ithen show that at least this pair of incommensurable theories couldneverthelessbe empirically compared. (shrink)
We advance a theory of inductive reasoning based on similarity, and test it on arguments involving mammal categories. To measure similarity, we quantified the overlap of neural activation in left Brodmann area 19 and the left ventral temporal cortex in response to pictures of different categories; the choice of of these regions is motivated by previous literature. The theory was tested against probability judgments for 40 arguments generated from 9 mammal categories and a common predicate. The results are interpreted in (...) the context of Hume’s thesis relating similarity to inductive inference. (shrink)
A number of neo-Kantians have suggested that an act may be morally worthy even if sympathy and similar emotions are present, so long as they are not what in fact motivates right action–so long as duty, and duty alone, in fact motivates. Thus, the ideal Kantian moral agent need not be a cold and unfeeling person, as some critics have suggested. Two objections to this view need to be answered. First, some maintain that motives cannot be present without in fact (...) motivating. Such non-motivating reasons, it is claimed, are incoherent. Second, if such motives are not in fact motivating, then nonetheless the moral agent's performance of right action will be objectionably cold and unfeeling. While the first objection is not compelling, since the alternative according to which all motives in fact motivate but differ in strength suffers from the very same problems attributed to the neo-Kantian view, the second has force, and any account of moral worth must make room for motives such as sympathy actually motivating right action. (shrink)
Historians of biology have argued that much of the dynamics of experimental disciplines such as genetics or molecular biology can be understood from studying experimental systems and model organisms alone . Such accounts contrast sharply with more traditional philosophies of science which viewed scientific research essentially as a process of inventing and testing theories. I present a case from the history of biochemistry which can be viewed from both the experimental systems perspective and from the methodology of theory testing. I (...) argue that not only are the two perspectives fully compatible, but they are both necessary for a complete account of the research process. (shrink)
For loss averse investors, a sequence of risky investments looks less attractive if it is evaluated myopically—an effect called myopic loss aversion (MLA). The consequences of this effect have been confirmed in several experiments and its robustness is largely undisputed. The effect’s causes, however, have not been thoroughly examined with regard to one important aspect. Due to the construction of the lotteries that were used in the experiments, none of the studies is able to distinguish between MLA and an explanation (...) based on (myopic) loss probability aversion (MLPA). This distinction is important, however, in discussion of the practical relevance and the generalizability of the phenomenon. We designed an experiment that is able to disentangle lottery attractiveness and loss probabilities. Our analysis reveals that mere loss probabilities are not as important in this dynamic context as previous findings in other domains suggest. The results favor the MLA over the MLPA explanation. (shrink)
Theories of personal identity face a paradox, which traces back to Bernard Williams: some scenarios obviously show that mental continuity is what solely matters in survival; others, on the contrary, show with equal obviousness that it is bodily continuity. Different authors have produced diverging and partly conflicting answers in response to that problem. Based on recent research concerning the structure of philosophical thought experiment, this paper reevaluates and, for the first time, neatly classifies those answers. What is more, several existing (...) approaches of how to answer the paradox are developed further, and two new answers are introduced. (shrink)
‘DU bist Radio’ (DBR) is an award winning [DBR has been awarded with the “Catholic Media Award of the German Bishops Conference, Prädikat WERTvoll” (2011), the Suisse “Media Prize Aargau/Solothurn” (2010), the German “Alternative Media Award” (2009) and was nominated for the “Prix Europa” (2009)] monthly radio format that goes on air on three Swiss radio stations. The purpose of this program which was first broadcast in 2009 is the development of a new media format which—without applying any journalistic (or (...) other) filter and influence—conveys authenticity of expression amongst society’s most vulnerable fellow citizens such as patients, clients and the socially deprived. So-called marginal groups are encouraged to speak for themselves, as a possible paradigm case for encouraging the inclusion of patients’ and relatives’ “unfiltered” voices in general and in clinical ethics as well. Before handing over the microphone to the groups in focus, a team of journalists, educated in medical ethics, over a period of 4 days, teaches them on-site radio skills and craft. Once this task is completed and the actual production of the broadcast begins, the media crew does not exert any influence whatsoever on the content of the 1-h program. Thus, the final product is solely created and accounted for by the media-inexperienced participants, leading to unforeseen and often surprising results. It is discussed that the DBR approach of fostering authenticity of expression can serve as an enhancement to today’s respect and autonomy oriented field of medical ethics. (shrink)