Commentary on “The transmission sense of information” by Carl T. Bergstrom and MartinRosvall Content Type Journal Article Pages 191-194 DOI 10.1007/s10539-010-9233-3 Authors James Maclaurin, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand Journal Biology and Philosophy Online ISSN 1572-8404 Print ISSN 0169-3867 Journal Volume Volume 26 Journal Issue Volume 26, Number 2.
Response to commentaries on “The Transmission Sense of Information” Content Type Journal Article Pages 195-200 DOI 10.1007/s10539-011-9257-3 Authors Carl T. Bergstrom, Department of Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-1800, USA MartinRosvall, Integrated Science Lab, Department of Physics, Umeå University, 901 87 Umeå, Sweden Journal Biology and Philosophy Online ISSN 1572-8404 Print ISSN 0169-3867 Journal Volume Volume 26 Journal Issue Volume 26, Number 2.
Biologists rely heavily on the language of information, coding, and transmission that is commonplace in the field of information theory developed by Claude Shannon, but there is open debate about whether such language is anything more than facile metaphor. Philosophers of biology have argued that when biologists talk about information in genes and in evolution, they are not talking about the sort of information that Shannon’s theory addresses. First, philosophers have suggested that Shannon’s theory is only useful for developing a (...) shallow notion of correlation, the so-called causal sense of information. Second, they typically argue that in genetics and evolutionary biology, information language is used in a semantic sense, whereas semantics are deliberately omitted from Shannon’s theory. Neither critique is well-founded. Here we propose an alternative to the causal and semantic senses of information: a transmission sense of information, in which an object X conveys information if the function of X is to reduce, by virtue of its sequence properties, uncertainty on the part of an agent who observes X. The transmission sense not only captures much of what biologists intend when they talk about information in genes, but also brings Shannon’s theory back to the fore. By taking the viewpoint of a communications engineer and focusing on the decision problem of how information is to be packaged for transport, this approach resolves several problems that have plagued the information concept in biology, and highlights a number of important features of the way that information is encoded, stored, and transmitted as genetic sequence. (shrink)
The studies of the Czech phenomenologist Jan Patočka has been flourishing recently. Martin Ritter’s book Into the World: The Movement of Patočka’s Phenomenology offers an important contribution to the debate and a long-awaited critical presentation of Patočka’s asubjective phenomenology as well as creative re-reading of Patočka's central doctrine of the movements of existence.
Listening to someone from some distance in a crowded room you may experience the following phenomenon: when looking at them speak, you may both hear and see where the source of the sounds is; but when your eyes are turned elsewhere, you may no longer be able to detect exactly where the voice must be coming from. With your eyes again fixed on the speaker, and the movement of her lips a clear sense of the source of the sound will (...) return. This ‘ventriloquist’ effect reflects the ways in which visual cognition can dominate auditory perception. And this phenomenological observation is one what you can verify or disconfirm in your own case just by the slightest reflection on what it is like for you to listen to someone with or without visual contact with them. (shrink)
Raymond Martin and John Barresi trace the development of Western ideas about personal identity and reveal the larger intellectual trends, controversies, and ideas that have revolutionized the way we think about ourselves.
This first volume in the four-volume series The Moral Limits of the Criminal Law focuses on the "harm principle," the commonsense view that prevention of harm to persons other than the perpetrator is a legitimate purpose of criminal legislation. Feinberg presents a detailed analysis of the concept and definition of harm and applies it to a host of practical and theoretical issues, showing how the harm principle must be interpreted if it is to be a plausible guide to the lawmaker.
There is no adequate understanding of contemporary Jewish and Christian theology without reference to Martin Buber. Buber wrote numerous books during his lifetime (1878-1965) and is best known for I and Thouand Good and Evil. Buber has influenced important Protestant theologians like Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, Paul Tillich, and Reinhold Niebuhr. His appeal is vast--not only is he renowned for his translations of the Hebrew Bible but also for his interpretation of Hasidism, his role in Zionism, and his writings (...) in psychotherapy and political philosophy. In addition to a general introduction, each chapter is individually introduced, illuminating the historical and philosophical context of the readings. Footnotes explain difficult concepts, providing the reader with necessary references, plus a selective bibliography and subject index. (shrink)
As the American political controversies of the 1850s were as much about the category of the political as about slavery, property, or territorial expansion, so did Emerson's focus shift from a philosophical exploration of politics to a lived experience of conflict and a new poetics of political writing. The essay “Politics,” published in 1844, explored an idealist vision emerging from Transcendentalism, but the engagement with British power and cultural authority that took place during his long visit in 1847 and 1848 (...) opened up an existential challenge to the premises of that essay. Although critical of intellectual rigidity and closed minds, Emerson finds himself drawn to the inner assurance of British society. The marginal status of English Traits, Emerson's account of his travels, is reflected in the relative paucity of critical discussion of the book. English Traits represents, however, not only the confrontation with British pragmatism but a new perspective on the relationship between ideas and power. As the orientation of this text is away from Transcendentalist hermeneutics and toward irony, one way of reintegrating English Traits into American intellectual history is to alter its status as a detour in Emerson's writing career, lacking in real significance, and instead to read it as one of the symptomatic literary productions of the 1850s. (shrink)
Abstract The work of Martin Buber oscillates between talk in which transcendence is experienced and talk in which transcendence is merely postulated. In order to show and mend this incoherence in Buber's thought, this essay attends to the rhetoric of verification ( Bewährung ), primarily but not solely in I and Thou (1923), both in order to show how it is a symptom of this incoherence, and also to show a broad pragmatic strain in Buber's thought. Given this pragmatic (...) strain, the essay argues that a weak notion of Buberian verification, in which taking a dialogic stance with reference to others evinces the right to talk of the real possibility of transcendence (a You-world, or God as the “eternal You“), is all that is necessary to combat despair. Strong notions of encounter are unnecessary, and also sink Buber in a morass of theodicy, in which he interprets historical misfortune and destruction as evidence of history's meaning. (shrink)
This article examines the meaning and significance of the concept of constituent power in constitutional thought by showing how it acts as a boundary concept with respect to three types of legal thought: normativism, decisionism and relationalism. The concept can be fully appreciated, it suggests, only by adopting a relationalist method. This relationalist method permits us to deal with the paradoxical aspects of constitutional founding creatively and to grasp how constituent power, as the generative aspect of the political power relationship, (...) works not only at founding moments but also within the dynamics of constitutional development. Relationalism realizes this ambition by exposing the tension between unity and hierarchy in constitutional foundation and the tension between the people-as-one and the people-as-the governed in the course of constitutional development. It contends, contrary to normativist claims, that constituent power remains a central concept of constitutional thought. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to set out some of the ontologies amongst which some forms of anti-realism must select. This provides the appropriate setting for presenting an alternative realist ontology. The argument is that the choice between the varieties of anti-realism and realism is inevitably a choice between ontologies.
The “ontological turn” is a recent movement within cultural anthropology. Its proponents want to move beyond a representationalist framework, where cultures are treated as systems of belief that provide different perspectives on a single world. Authors who write in this vein move from talk of many cultures to many “worlds,” thus appearing to affirm a form of relativism. We argue that, unlike earlier forms of relativism, the ontological turn in anthropology is not only immune to the arguments of Donald Davidson’s (...) “The Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme,” but it affirms and develops the antirepresentationalist position of Davidson’s subsequent essays. (shrink)
Francesco Guala has developed some novel and radical ideas on the problem of external validity, a topic that has not received much attention in the experimental economics literature. In this paper I argue that his views on external validity are not justified and the conclusions which he draws from these views, if widely adopted, could substantially undermine the experimental economics enterprise. In rejecting the justification of these views, the paper reaffirms the importance of experiments in economics.
This is the best collection of essays on Rorty’s philosophy that has been published in the last decade. It will be of great interest not only to Rorty specialists but to anyone concerned with the difficulties contemporary analytic philosophy faces in its search for a viable self-understanding. The contributors are Barry Allen, Akeel Bilgrami, Jacques Bouveresse, Robert Brandom, James Conant, Donald Davidson, Daniel Dennett, Jürgen Habermas, John McDowell, Hilary Putnam, Bjørn Ramberg, and Michael Williams. Rorty himself has also written an (...) essay, plus individual and fairly extensive replies to each of his critics. (shrink)
‘Marital faithfulness’ refers to faithful love for a spouse or lover to whom one is committed, rather than the narrower idea of sexual fidelity. The distinction is clearly marked in traditional wedding vows. A commitment to love faithfully is central: ‘to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part… and thereto I plight [pledge] thee my troth [faithfulness]’. (...) Sexual fidelity is promised in a subordinate clause, symbolizing its supportive role in promoting love's constancy: ‘and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto her/him.’. (shrink)
It might surprise someone, who knew only On Liberty, to hear J. S. Mill called the father of British socialism. That would sound a careless bid for a respectable pedigree, on a par with hailing King Canute as father of the British seaside holiday. Mill is passionate there about making the individual a protected species, not to be interfered with even for his own good, unless to prevent harm to others. He is so passionate that government seems at times to (...) have no other task than to protect. The Principles of Political Economy, on the other hand, displays clear, if intermittent, socialist leanings. There too ‘there is a circle round every individual human being, which no government… ought to be permitted to overstep’. But, subject to this constraint, government is urged to do all the utilitarian good it can and some nasty worries for democratic socialists surface instructively. They centre on the social aspects of individuality and give rise to problems in what my title calls the Social Liberty Game. British socialism, with its Lib-Lab origins and tolerant respect for individual liberty, embodies a tension between the rights of each and the good of all, which makes the Principles a living part of its intellectual history. (shrink)
This article presents two interlocking arguments for epistemic political egalitarianism. I argue, first, that coping with multidimensional social complexity requires the integration of expertise. This is the task of political parties as collective epistemic agents who transform abstract value judgments into sufficiently coherent and specific conceptions of justice for their society. Because parties thus severely lower the relevant threshold of comparison of political competence, citizens have reason to regard each other as epistemic equals. Drawing on the virulent “peer disagreement debate,” (...) I then analyze the epistemic significance of political disagreement. I contend that citizens ought to pursue epistemic conciliation, an idea I contrast to the ideals of compromise and of consensus. Subsequently, I introduce insights from public choice theory and empirical findings which show that and why multi-party electoral competition coupled with equal rights to participation tends to produce conciliatory outcomes. We thus have reason to endorse political egalitarianism on epistemic grounds. (shrink)
What happens when mindless symbols of algorithmic AI encounter mindful performative rituals? I return to my criticisms of Habermas’ secularising reading of Kierkegaard’s ethics. Next, I lay out Habermas’ claim that the sacred complex of ritual and myth contains the ur-origins of postmetaphysical thinking and reflective faith. If reflective faith shares with ritual same origins as does communicative interaction, how do we access these archaic ritual sources of human solidarity in the age of AI?
How can environmental philosophy benefit from Friedrich Nietzsche's radical critique of morality? In this paper, it is argued that Nietzsche's account of nature provides us with a challenging diagnosis of the modern crisis in our relationship with nature. Moreover, his interpretation of wildness can elucidate our concern with the value of wilderness as a place of value beyond the sphere of human intervention. For Nietzsche, wild nature is a realm where moral valuations are out of order. In his work, however, (...) we can discern a paradoxical moral concern with this wildness. Wildness is a critical moral concept that reminds us of the fact that our moral world of human meanings and goals ultimately rests on a much grander, all-encompassing natural world. Nietzsche's concept of wildness acknowledges the value of that which cannot be morally appropriated. Wild nature confronts us with the limits of human valuing. Wildness as a concept thus introduces the 'beyond' of culture into the cultural arena of values. (shrink)
This English translation of Vom Wesen der Sprache, volume 85 of Martin Heidegger's Gesamtausgabe, contains fascinating discussions of language that are important both for those interested in Heidegger's thought and for those who wish to ...
The first objective of this article is to demonstrate that ethics committee members can learn a great deal from a forensic analysis of two classic psychology studies: Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Study and Milgram’s Obedience Study. Rather than using hindsight to retrospectively eradicate the harm in these studies, the article uses a prospective minimization of harm technique. Milgram attempted to be ethical by trying to protect his subjects through debriefing and a follow-up survey. He could have done more, however, by carrying (...) out what ethics committees routinely insist on today for those researching sensitive topics. The establishment of counselling supports to identify harm to participants would have minimized additional harm. Were these in place, or in Zimbardo’s case had the Stanford Ethics Committee properly identified Zimbardo’s conflict of interest – he was both a principal investigator and the prison warden – how much harm could have been minimized? The second aim is to examine how some qualitative authors routinely demonize these classic studies. It might appear that there are too few cases of unethical qualitative research to justify such an examination; however, this article identifies a number of recent examples of ethically dubious qualitative research. This would suggest that qualitative research should examine its own ethics before poaching from psychology. (shrink)
Abstract Many have been struck by Hannah Arendt?s remarks on loneliness in the concluding pages of The Origins of Totalitarianism, but very few have attempted to deal with the remarks in any systematic way. What is especially striking about this state of affairs is that the remarks are crucial to the account contained therein, as they betray a view of agency that undergirds the rest of the account. This article develops Arendt?s thinking on loneliness throughout her corpus, showing how loneliness (...) is connected to thoughtlessness. In so doing, the article also suggests a connection between Arendt?s notion of loneliness and Stanley Cavell?s notion of skepticism. This connection, it is argued, allows us not only fully to answer a question Arendt leaves unaddressed (the cause loneliness), but also allows us to see how we, as agents and users of language, are perpetually prone to loneliness. (shrink)
introduction to the theme issue of Environmental Values on Rewilding in cultural layered landscapes. Rewilding projects, especially in culturally saturated landscapes, are often being opposed by those who deeply care about the old cultural landscapes (for cultural or ecological reasons). Indeed, some proponents of rewilding today fall back on the language that was developed by the early proponents of wilderness preservation, starting off from an opposition between wild nature and culture, and claiming that nature needs to be protected against human (...) domination, while also claiming the importance of wild nature as an antidote to the historical dominance that humans have had over the natural world. However, seeing cultural landscapes merely as ‘disturbed’ by humans fails to do justice to the way that human history and these landscapes are intimately intertwined. Therefore, other rewilding advocates feel that rewilding in cultural landscapes requires a fundamentally different approach. Rather than seeking to restore a situation of the past, for them, rewilding is fundamentally oriented towards the future and seeks to introduce wildness back into society. Despite these attempts to reconcile rewilding with concerns over landscape history, cultural identity and cultural heritage, clear tensions remain. The papers in this theme issue attempt to find connections between different perspectives on landscape and nature protection and contribute to the ongoing debate about the meaning and value of wildness and history in layered cultural landscapes. (shrink)