It is nowadays a dominant opinion in a number of disciplines (anthropology, genetics, psychology, philosophy of science) that the taxonomy of human races does not make much biological sense. My aim is to challenge the arguments that are usually thought to invalidate the biological concept of race. I will try to show that the way “race” was defined by biologists several decades ago (by Dobzhansky and others) is in no way discredited by conceptual criticisms that are now fashionable and widely (...) regarded as cogent. These criticisms often arbitrarily burden the biological category of race with some implausible connotations, which then opens the path for a quick eliminative move. However, when properly understood, the biological notion of race proves remarkably resistant to these deconstructive attempts. Moreover, by analyzing statements of some leading contemporary scholars who support social constructivism about race, I hope to demonstrate that their eliminativist views are actually in conflict with what the best contemporary science tells us about human genetic variation. (shrink)
Racial profiling has come under intense public scrutiny especially since the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. This article discusses two questions: whether racial profiling is sometimes rational, and whether it can be morally permissible. It is argued that under certain circumstances the affirmative answer to both questions is justified.
In this book, Neven Sesardic defends the view that it is both possible and useful to measure the separate contributions of heredity and environment to the explanation of human psychological differences. He critically examines the view - very widely accepted by scientists, social scientists and philosophers of science - that heritability estimates have no causal implications and are devoid of any interest. In a series of clearly written chapters he introduces the reader to the problems and subjects the arguments to (...) close philosophical scrutiny. His conclusion is that anti-heritability arguments are based on conceptual confusions and misunderstandings of behavioural genetics. His book is a fresh and compelling intervention in a very contentious debate. (shrink)
In his criticism of my paper on the concept of race (Sesardic, 2010), Adam Hochman raises many issues that deserve further clarification. First, I will comment on Hochman’s claim that I attack a straw man version of racial constructionism. Second, I will try to correct what I see as a distorted historical picture of the debate between racial naturalists and racial constructionists. Third, I will point out the main weaknesses in Hochman’s own defense of constructionism about race. And fourth, I (...) will briefly comment on why I think that Hochman unjustifiably dismisses one of the potential sources of racial differentiation that were suggested in my paper. Before I start, though, a preliminary clarification is in order. Hochman kindly calls my article ‘‘one of the strongest defenses of racial naturalism in recent times’’, which might suggest to the reader that my goal was to offer a full-fledged biological explication of the concept of race. But in fact my ambition was more limited. As I explained: My aim in this paper was not to prove the biological reality of race. Rather, more modestly, I have tried to show that typical attempts to disconnect the concept of race from genetics have too quickly and too uncritically been accepted by many ‘‘race critics’’. (Sesardic, 2010, p. 160; italics added) I will continue defending the same position in this article. (shrink)
A number of philosophers attribute the underrepresentation of women in philosophy largely to bias against women or some kind of wrongful discrimination. They cite six sources of evidence to support their contention: (1) gender disparities that increase along the path from undergraduate student to full time faculty member; (2) anecdotal accounts of discrimination in philosophy; (3) research on gender bias in the evaluation of manuscripts, grants, and curricula vitae in other academic disciplines; (4) psychological research on implicit bias; (5) psychological (...) research on stereotype threat; and (6) the relatively small number of articles written from a feminist perspective in leading philosophy journals. In each case, we find that proponents of the discrimination hypothesis have tended to present evidence selectively. Occasionally they have even presented as evidence what appears to be something more dubious. (shrink)
Philosophers of science widely believe that the hereditarian theory about racial differences in IQ is based on methodological mistakes and confusions involving the concept of heritability. I argue that this "received view" is wrong: methodological criticisms popular among philosophers are seriously misconceived, and the discussion in philosophy of science about these matters is largely disconnected from the real, empirically complex issues debated in science.
The critics of "hereditarianism" often claim that any attempt to explain human behavior by invoking genes is confronted with insurmountable methodological difficulties. They reject the idea that heritability estimates could lead to genetic explanations by pointing out that these estimates are strictly valid only for a given population and that they are exposed to the irremovable confounding effects of genotype-environment interaction and genotype-environment correlation. I argue that these difficulties are greatly exaggerated, and that we would be wrong to regard them (...) as presenting a fundamental obstacle to the search for genetic explanations. I also show that, to the extent they are cogent, these objections may prove to be even more damaging to the "environmentalist" standpoint. (shrink)
Political imputations in science are notoriously a tricky business. I addressed this issue in the context of the nature–nurture debate in the penultimate chapter of my book Making Sense of Heritability (Cambridge U. P. 2005). Although the book mainly dealt with the logic of how one should think about heritability of psychological differences, it also discussed the role of politics in our efforts to understand the dynamics of that controversy. I first argued that if a scholar publicly defends a certain (...) view (say, hereditarianism) in the debate about IQ, race and genetics this fact alone cannot justify attributing a political motivation to that person. But then later I suggested that the pressure of political correctness could explain some peculiarities of the contemporary controversy about the heritability of group differences in IQ. Several reviewers of my book raised a tu quoque objection. Am I not doing here the same thing that I condemn others for? (shrink)
To operationalize the methodological assessment of evolutionary psychology, three requirements are proposed that, if satisfied, would show that a hypothesis is not a just-so story: (1) theoretical entrenchment (i.e., that the hypothesis under consideration is a consequence of a more fundamental theory that is empirically well-confirmed across a very wide range of phenomena), (2) predictive success (i.e., that the hypothesis generates concrete predictions that make it testable and eventually to a certain extent corroborated), and (3) failure of rival explanations (i.e., (...) that crucial and successful predictions attributed to the hypothesis in question cannot be derived from alternative hypotheses). The author argues that the hypothesis about evolutionary sex differences in human jealousy satisfies all three requirements. Key Words: evolutionary psychology adaptationism philosophy of science testability. (shrink)
Genetic differences can lead to phenotypic differences either directly or indirectly (via causing differences in external environments, which then affect phenotype). This possibility of genetic effects being mediated by environmental influences is often used by scientists and philosophers to argue that heritability is not a very helpful causal or explanatory notion. In this paper it is shown that these criticisms are based on serious misconceptions about methods of behavior genetics.
Does the concept of “race” find support in contemporary science, particularly in biology? No, says Naomi Zack, together with so many others who nowadays argue that human races lack biological reality. This claim is widely accepted in a number of fields (philosophy, biology, anthropology, and psychology), and Zack’s book represents only the latest defense of social constructivism in this context. There are several reasons why she fails to make a convincing case.
The article focuses on prosecutor's fallacy and interrogator's fallacy, the two kinds of reasoning in inferring a suspect's guilt. The prosecutor's fallacy is a combination of two conditional probabilities that lead to unfortunate commission of error in the process due to the inclination of the prosecutor in the establishment of strong evidence that will indict the defendant. It provides a comprehensive discussion of Gerd Gigerenzer's discourse on a criminal case in Germany explaining the perils of prosecutor's fallacy in his application (...) of probability to practical problems. It also discusses the interrogator's fallacy which was introduced by Robert A. J. Matthews as the error on the assumption that confessional evidence can never reduce the probability of guilt. (shrink)
According to Kant, the universalization of the maxim of false promising leads to a contradiction, namely, to everyone adopting the maxim of false promising which would in effect make promising impossible. I first propose a reconstruction of Kant’s reasoning in four steps and then show that each of these steps is highly problematic. In the second part I argue that attempts by several prominent contemporary philosophers to defend Kant fail because they encounter similar difficulties.
Analytic philosophers usually emphasize the importance of logic, clarity and reason. Therefore when they address political issues one would expect that they would usually inject a dose of rationality in these discussions. But this book gives a lot of examples showing the unexpected level of political irrationality among leading contemporary philosophers.
Many Western intellectuals, especially those in humanities and social sciences, think that it can be easily shown that the persistent and massive opposition to same-sex marriage is rationally indefensible and that it is merely a result of prejudice or religious fanaticism. But a more detailed analysis of some of these widely accepted arguments against the conservative position reveals that these arguments are in fact based on logical fallacies and serious distortions of conservative criticisms of homosexual marriage. It is concluded that (...) philosophers ought to resist the pressure of political correctness and that they should approach the debate with a more open mind than before. (shrink)
In the situation known as the “cable guy paradox” the expected utility principle and the “avoid certain frustration” principle (ACF) seem to give contradictory advice about what one should do. This article tries to resolve the paradox by presenting an example that weakens the grip of ACF: a modified version of the cable guy problem is introduced in which the choice dictated by ACF loses much of its intuitive appeal.
In contrast to the opinion of numerous authors (e.g. R. Rudner, P. Kitcher, L. R. Graham, M. Dummett, N. Chomsky, R. Lewontin, etc.) it is argued here that the formation of opinion in science should be greatly insulated from political considerations. Special attention is devoted to the view that methodological standards for evaluation of scientific theories ought to vary according to the envisaged political uses of these theories.
In this article I criticize the recommendations of some prominent statisticians about how to estimate and compare probabilities of the repeated sudden infant death and repeated murder. The issue has drawn considerable public attention in connection with several recent court cases in the UK. I try to show that when the three components of the Bayesian inference are carefully analyzed in this context, the advice of the statisticians turns out to be problematic in each of the steps.
My aim in this paper is to take a closer look at an influential argument that purports to prove that the existence of cultural prohibitions could never be explained by biological inhibitions. The argument is two-pronged. The first prong reduces to the claim: inhibitions cannot cause prohibitions simply because inhibitions undermine the raison dêtre of prohibitions. The second strategy consists in arguing that inhibitions cannot cause prohibitions because the two differ importantly in their contents. I try to show that both (...) claims fail. (shrink)
More attention perhaps could have been given to the implications of Aristotle’s repeated insistence that education should be relevant to the constitution, that democrats should be educated democratically and oligarchs oligarchically. Curren claims (p. 101) that, because education to preserve any constitution must aim to moderate the constitution, education for both oligarchs and democrats will be essentially the same. Certainly, Aristotle believes that oligarchies and democracies will be more secure if they tend toward the moderate, “middle” constitution (‘polity’). Nonetheless, if (...) education were always to be the same, why does Aristotle stress the need for relativism (as well as insisting on the difference between the good person and the good citizen [Politics 3.5])? Interesting modern questions suggest themselves. For instance, how should public education differ in relation to the differing political cultures of different countries? What needs to be taught to “preserve the constitution”? Should the British be brought up to respect monarchy? Should Americans be educated to be suspicious of government? What of education in, say, South Africa or Russia? (shrink)
Does the concept of “race” ﬁnd support in contemporary science, particularly in biology? No, says Naomi Zack, together with so many others who nowadays argue that human races lack biological reality. This claim is widely accepted in a number of ﬁelds (philosophy, biology, anthropology, and psychology), and Zack’s book represents only the latest defense of social constructivism in this context. There are several reasons why she fails to make a convincing case. Zack starts by arbitrarily ascribing an anachronistically essentialist connotation (...) to the concept of race. After having made that everyday notion semantically so crude and outdated there is no wonder that she ﬁnds it quite easy to conclude that such an awkward category has no place in science. Her main rationale for seeing our race distinctions as being poorly matched to biological characteristics (e.g., population differences in gene frequencies) is that these biological characteristics do not fall into discrete and mutually exclusive categories as “required” by the common-sense taxonomy. This opposition between the continuity of variation found in biology and the alleged discreteness of common-sense “races” is repeated throughout the book, and it is presented as creating an unbridgeable gap between biology and the colloquial concept of race. Contrary to what Zack says, however, today’s common-sense ideas about race are not so radically disconnected from contemporary science. Rather, “race” in ordinary usage is informed by biological knowledge to a considerable extent. Most people no longer think about race in terms of pre-Darwinian racial “essences” and “mutually exclusive” ideal types. In fact, as pointed out by Anthony Appiah (whom Zack quotes on this matter but without taking him seriously enough), the discourse on race has long been characterized by a practice of “semantic deference,” according to which people tend to use the word “race” assuming that the biologists could say more precisely than they could what it meant.. (shrink)
In the first stage of his thinking Karl Marx founded his revolutionary politics on philosophical speculation, while in the second (mature) stage he relied on economics and the theory of exploitation based on his theory of surplus value. Marxism, however, developed in the opposite direction. After Marx's economic doctrine became vulnerable to powerful objections, Marxists tried to find a refuge in his early philosophical writings and in this way avoid refutation. Ultimately this attempt proved unsuccessful too.
This article presents a criticism of the widespread assumption that the programme of the Vienna Circle has been proven to be unrealizable and, therefore, that it is today quite uninteresting and to be entirely abandoned. The basic aim of logical positivists was to raise philosophy to the rigour and high standards of contemporary science. It must be admitted that they were unsuccessful in their attempts to eliminate old-fashioned and conservative philosophy by proving it to be senseless. There is in fact (...) no clearcut formal procedure to distinguish scientific philosophy from metaphysics. Nevertheless, the Vienna Cirlcle established its aimin a rather unusual, roundabout way. Its method of dealing with various concrete problems gave a picture of what scientific philosophy should be like. Two main features of its method were first, logical precision and clarity in thinking, and second, sticking to facts regardless of our emotional attitude towards them. Thiswas a major turning point in philosophy representing a break with its tradition of irrationalism and sentimentalism. (shrink)
To operationalize the methodological assessment of evolutionary psychology, three requirements are proposed that, if satisfied, would show that a hypothesis is not a just-so story: (1) theoretical entrenchment (i.e., that the hypothesis under consideration is a consequence of a more fundamental theory that is empirically well-confirmed across a very wide range of phenomena), (2) predictive success (i.e., that the hypothesis generates concrete predictions that make it testable and eventually to a certain extent corroborated), and (3) failure of rival explanations (i.e., (...) that crucial and successful predictions attributed to the hypothesis in question cannot be derived from alternative hypotheses). The author argues that the hypothesis about evolutionary sex differences in human jealousy satisfies all three requirements. (shrink)
philosophers of science have in succession defended and, indeed, taken seriously the following claims on the issue: (a) that reductionism is a pri- ori true, (b) that it is contingently true, (c) that it is contingently false, and (d) that it is a priori false. Of these, (a) is now completely abandoned, (b) is moribund, (c) is presently a dominant view, and (d) is an influential and controversial position (see D. Davidson, 1970), but largely restricted..
SummaryIn this article I am criticizing Davidson's claim that psychological description and explanation are impossible without a strong assumption of rationality of the subject. I am trying to dispute his thesis that presupposition of coherence between propositional attitudes must be treated as a constitutive principle of psychology which fundamentally differentiates this science from physics and precludes the existence of strict psycho‐physical laws. Philosophical and empirical arguments are brought forward tho show that Davidson overestimates the role of rationality considerations in psychology. (...) There is no a priori reason why mental states should not be gradually included in a deterministic nomological net.RésuméDans cet article, je critique la thèse de Davidson selon laquelle la description et I'explication psychologiques sont impossibles si I'on ne fait pas I'hypothèse forte de la rationalité du sujet. Je conteste sa thése que la présuppositions d'une cohérence entre les attitudes propositionnelles doive être considérée comme un principe constitutif de la psychologie, principe qui la différencierait fondamentalement de la physique et interdirait I'existence de lois psycho‐physiques strictes. Des arguments philosophiques et empiriques sont produits pour montrer que Davidson surestime le rôle des considérations de rationalité en psychologie. II n'y a pas de raison a priori pour que des états mentaux ne soient pas graduellement introduits dans un réseau nomologique déterministe.ZusammenfassungIn diesem Artikel kritisiere ich Davidsons Behauptung, wonach psychologische Beschreibun‐gen und Erklärungen ohne starke Annahmen bezüglich der Rationalität des subjektes nicht mög‐lich sind. Ich versuche, die These zu widerlegen, der gemäss die Voraussetzung der Kohärenz zwischen propositionalen Haltungen als Konstitutives Prinzip der Psychologie betrachten werden muss, das diese Wissenschaft grundlegend von der Physik unterscheidet und deshalb auch die Möglichkeit von strenge psycho‐physischen Gesetzen ausschliesst. Philosophische und empirische Argumente werden vorgelegt urn zu zeigen, dass Davidson die Rolle von Rationalitätserwägungen in der Psychologie überschätzt. Es gibt keine apriorischen Gründe dafür, dass mentale Zustände nicht nach und nach in ein deterministisches Netzwerk von Gesetzen eingefügt werden könnten. (shrink)
This article deals with the changing relationship between philosophy and modern science. in the beginning there was a rivalry of the two approaches due to the interest in the same subject areas. the strict demarcation between science and philosophy, which was established afterwords by logical positivists, prevented the breaking out of conflicts, but it prevented the mutual communication as well. today we are the witnesses of a greater and greater cooperation of science and philosophy and of a fruitful exchange of (...) ideas between these two disciplines. (shrink)