Sociobiology developed in the 1960s as a field within evolutionary biology to explain human social traits and behaviours. Although sociobiology has few direct connections to eugenics, it shares eugenics’ optimistic enthusiasm for extending biological science into the human domain, often with reckless sensationalism. Sociobiology's critics have argued that sociobiology also propagates a kind of genetic determinism and represents the zealous misapplication of science beyond its proper reach that characterized the eugenics movement. More recently, evolutionary psychology represents a sophistication of sociobiology (...) that attends to the mind as the "missing link" between evolution and behaviour (Cosmides and Tooby 1992, Pinker 1997). (shrink)
Where does the mind begin and end? Most philosophers and cognitive scientists take the view that the mind is bounded by the skull or skin of the individual. Robert Wilson, in this provocative and challenging 2004 book, provides the foundations for the view that the mind extends beyond the boundary of the individual. The approach adopted offers a unique blend of traditional philosophical analysis, cognitive science, and the history of psychology and the human sciences. A forthcoming companion volume Genes and (...) the Agents of Life will explore the theme in the biological sciences. Written with verve and clarity, this ambitious book will appeal to a broad swathe of professionals and students in philosophy, psychology, cognitive science, and the history of the behavioural and human sciences. (shrink)
1. The Situation in Cognition 2. Situated Cognition: A Potted Recent History 3. Extensions in Biology, Computation, and Cognition 4. Articulating the Idea of Cognitive Extension 5. Are Some Resources Intrinsically Non-Cognitive? 6. Is Cognition Extended or Only Embedded? 7. Letting Nature Take Its Course.
Genes and the Agents of Life undertakes to rethink the place of the individual in the biological sciences, drawing parallels with the cognitive and social sciences. Genes, organisms, and species are all agents of life but how are each of these conceptualized within genetics, developmental biology, evolutionary biology, and systematics? The book includes highly accessible discussions of genetic encoding, species and natural kinds, and pluralism above the levels of selection, drawing on work from across the biological sciences. The book is (...) a companion to the author's Boundaries of the Mind, also available from Cambridge, where the focus is the cognitive sciences. The book will appeal to a broad range of professionals and students in philosophy, biology, and the history of science. (shrink)
Essentialism is widely regarded as a mistaken view of biological kinds, such as species. After recounting why (sections 2-3), we provide a brief survey of the chief responses to the “death of essentialism” in the philosophy of biology (section 4). We then develop one of these responses, the claim that biological kinds are homeostatic property clusters (sections 5-6) illustrating this view with several novel examples (section 7). Although this view was first expressed 20 years ago, and has received recent discussion (...) and critique, it remains underdeveloped and is often misrepresented by its critics (section 8). (shrink)
In this paper, we aim to show that the framework of embedded, distributed, or extended cognition offers new perspectives on social cognition by applying it to one specific domain: the psychology of memory. In making our case, first we specify some key social dimensions of cognitive distribution and some basic distinctions between memory cases, and then describe stronger and weaker versions of distributed remembering in the general distributed cognition framework. Next, we examine studies of social influences on memory in cognitive (...) psychology, and identify the valuable concepts and methods to be extended and embedded in our framework; we focus in particular on three related paradigms: transactive memory, collaborative recall, and social contagion. Finally, we sketch our own early studies of individual and group memory developed within our framework of distributed cognition, on social contagion of autobiographical memories, collaborative flashbulb memories, and memories of high school at a high school reunion. We see two reciprocal benefits of this conceptual and empirical framework to social memory phenomena: that ideas about distributed cognition can be honed against and tested with the help of sophisticated methods in the social cognitive psychology of memory; and conversely, that a range of social memory phenomena that are as yet poorly understood can be approached afresh with theoretically motivated extensions of existing empirical paradigms. (shrink)
Dominant views of personal identity in philosophy take some kind of psychological continuity or connectedness over time to be criterial for the identity of a person over time. Such views assign psychological states, particularly those necessary for narrative memory of some kind, special importance in thinking about the nature of persons. The extended mind thesis, which has generated much recent discussion in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science, holds that a person’s psychological states can physically extend beyond that person’s (...) body. Since “person” is a term of both metaphysical and moral significance, and discussions of both extended minds and personal identity have often focused on memory, this article explores the relevance of extended cognition for the identity of persons with special attention to neuroethics and memory. (shrink)
The computational argument for individualism, which moves from computationalism to individualism about the mind, is problematic, not because computationalism is false, but because computational psychology is, at least sometimes, wide. The paper provides an early, or perhaps predecessor, version of the thesis of extended cognition.
The impressive variation amongst biological individuals generates many complexities in addressing the simple-sounding question what is a biological individual? A distinction between evolutionary and physiological individuals is useful in thinking about biological individuals, as is attention to the kinds of groups, such as superorganisms and species, that have sometimes been thought of as biological individuals. More fully understanding the conceptual space that biological individuals occupy also involves considering a range of other concepts, such as life, reproduction, and agency. There has (...) been a focus in some recent discussions by both philosophers and biologists on how evolutionary individuals are created and regulated, as well as continuing work on the evolution of individuality. (shrink)
In this article, I reconsider bio-essentialism in the study of kinship, centering on David Schneider’s influential critique that concluded that kinship was “a non-subject” (1972:51). Schneider’s critique is often taken to have shown the limitations of and problems with past views of kinship based on biology, genealogy, and reproduction, a critique that subsequently led those reworking kinship as relatedness in the new kinship studies to view their enterprise as divorced from such bio-essentialist studies. Beginning with an alternative narrative connecting kinship (...) past and present and concluding by introducing a novel way of thinking about kinship, I have three constituent aims in this research article: (1) to reconceptualize the relationship between kinship past and kinship present; (2) to reevaluate Schneider’s critique of bio-essentialism and what this implies for the contemporary study of kinship; and (3) subsequently to redirect theoretical discussion of what kinship is. This concluding discussion introduces a general view, the homeostatic property cluster (HPC) view of kinds, into anthropology, providing a theoretical framework that facilitates realization of the often-touted desideratum of the integration of biological and social features of kinship. [bio-essentialism, kinship studies, homeostatic property cluster kinds, Schneider, genealogy]. (shrink)
This collection of original essays--by philosophers of biology, biologists, and cognitive scientists--provides a wide range of perspectives on species. Including contributions from David Hull, John Dupre, David Nanney, Kevin de Queiroz, and Kim Sterelny, amongst others, this book has become especially well-known for the three essays it contains on the homeostatic property cluster view of natural kinds, papers by Richard Boyd, Paul Griffiths, and Robert A. Wilson.
While memory is conceptualized predominantly as an individual capacity in the cognitive and biological sciences, the social sciences have most commonly construed memory as a collective phenomenon. Collective memory has been put to diverse uses, ranging from accounts of nationalism in history and political science to views of ritualization and commemoration in anthropology and sociology. These appeals to collective memory share the idea that memory ‘‘goes beyond the individual’’ but often run together quite diﬀerent claims in spelling out that idea. (...) This paper reviews a sampling of recent work on collective memory in the light of emerging externalist views within the cognitive sciences, and through some reﬂection on broader traditions of thought in the biological and social sciences that have appealed to the idea that groups have minds. The paper concludes with some thoughts about the relationship between these kinds of cognitive metaphors in the social sciences and our notion of agency. (shrink)
Individuals are a prominent part of the biological world. Although biologists and philosophers of biology draw freely on the concept of an individual in articulating both widely accepted and more controversial claims, there has been little explicit work devoted to the biological notion of an individual itself. How should we think about biological individuals? What are the roles that biological individuals play in processes such as natural selection (are genes and groups also units of selection?), speciation (are species individuals?), and (...) organismic development (do genomes code for organisms)? Much of our discussion here will focus on organisms as a central kind of biological individual, and that discussion will raise broader questions about the nature of the biological world, for example, about its complexity, its organization, and its relation to human thought. (shrink)
This paper attempts to do two things. First, it recounts the problem of intentionality, as it has typically been conceptualized, and argues that it needs to be reconceptualized in light of the radical form of externalism most commonly referred to as the extended mind thesis. Second, it provides an explicit, novel argument for that thesis, what I call the argument from meaning making, and offers some defense of that argument. This second task occupies the core of the paper, and in (...) completing it I distinguish _active _ _cognition_ from _cyborg fantasy arguments_ for externalism, and develop the analogy between the extended mind thesis in the cognitive sciences and developmental systems theory in developmental biology. The rethinking of the problem of intentionality on offer leads not so much to a solution as to a dissolution of that problem, as traditionally conceived. (shrink)
The view that it is better for life to be created free of disability is pervasive in both common sense and philosophy. We cast doubt on this view by focusing on an influential line of thinking that manifests it. That thinking begins with a widely-discussed principle, Procreative Beneficence, and draws conclusions about parental choice and disability. After reconstructing two versions of this argument, we critique the first by exploring the relationship between different understandings of well-being and disability, and the second (...) by more briefly focusing on the idea of a significant reason. By placing these results against the broader historical and ongoing contexts in which the lives of those with disabilities have been deemed of inferior quality, we conclude with a call for greater humility about disability and well-being in thought and practice. (shrink)
This paper examines the standard view of realization operative incontemporary philosophy of mind, and proposes an alternative, generalperspective on realization. The standard view can be expressed, insummary form, as the conjunction of two theses, the sufficiency thesis andthe constitutivity thesis. Physicalists of both reductionist and anti-reductionist persuasions share a conception of realization wherebyrealizations are determinative of the properties they realize and physically constitutive of the individuals with those properties. Centralto the alternative view that I explore here is the idea that (...) the requisite,metaphysically robust notion of realization is ineliminably context-sensitive. I shall argue that the sufficiency and constitutivity theses aretypically not jointly satisfied by any one candidate realizer, and that goingcontext-sensitive in one's metaphysics is preferable to the standard view.The context-sensitive views developed here are implicit in a range ofcommon views in both the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of biology,even if they have not been explicitly articulated, and even though theyundermine other views that are commonly endorsed. (shrink)
Fodor's thinking on modularity has been influential throughout a range of the areas studying cognition, chiefly as a prod for positive work on modularity and domain-specificity. In _The Mind Doesn't Work That Way_, Fodor has developed the dark message of _The Modularity of Mind_ regarding the limits to modularity and computational analyses. This paper offers a critical assessment of Fodor's scepticism with an eye to highlighting some broader issues in play, including the nature of computation and the role of recent (...) empirical developments in the cognitive sciences in assessing Fodor's position. (shrink)
Philosophical exploration of individualism and externalism in the cognitive sciences most recently has been focused on general evaluations of these two views (Adams & Aizawa 2008, Rupert 2008, Wilson 2004, Clark 2008). Here we return to broaden an earlier phase of the debate between individualists and externalists about cognition, one that considered in detail particular theories, such as those in developmental psychology (Patterson 1991) and the computational theory of vision (Burge 1986, Segal 1989). Music cognition is an area in the (...) cognitive sciences that has received little attention from philosophers, though it has relatively recently been thrown into the externalist spotlight (Cochrane 2008, Kruger 2014, Kersten forthcoming). Given that individualism can be thought of as a kind of paradigm for research on cognition, we provide a brief overview of the field of music cognition and individualistic tendencies within the field (sections 2 and 3) before turning to consider externalist alternatives to individualistic paradigms (section 4-5) and then arguing for a qualified form of externalism about music cognition (section 6). (shrink)
Cognition is embodied when it is deeply dependent upon features of the physical body of an agent, that is, when aspects of the agent's body beyond the brain play a significant causal or physically constitutive role in cognitive processing. In general, dominant views in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science have considered the body as peripheral to understanding the nature of mind and cognition. Proponents of embodied cognitive science view this as a serious mistake. Sometimes the nature of the (...) dependence of cognition on the body is quite unexpected, and suggests new ways of conceptualizing and exploring the mechanics of cognitive processing. Embodied cognitive science encompasses a loose-knit family of research programs in the cognitive sciences that often share a commitment to critiquing and even replacing traditional approaches to cognition and cognitive processing. Empirical research on embodied cognition has exploded in the past 10 years. As the bibliography for this article attests, the various bodies of work that will be discussed represent a serious alternative to the investigation of cognitive phenomena. Relatively recent work on the embodiment of cognition provides much food for thought for empirically-informed philosophers of mind. This is in part because of the rich range of phenomena that embodied cognitive science has studied. But it is also in part because those phenomena are often thought to challenge dominant views of the mind, such as the computational and representational theories of mind, at the heart of traditional cognitive science. And they have sometimes been taken to undermine standard positions in the philosophy of mind, such as the idea that the mind is identical to, or even realized in, the brain. (shrink)
Projects of human improvement take both individual and intergenerational forms. The biosciences provide many technologies, including prenatal screening and the latest gene editing techniques, such as CRISPR, that have been viewed as providing the means to human improvement across generations. But who is fit to furnish the next generation? Historically, eugenics epitomizes the science-based attempt to improve human society through distinguishing kinds of people and then implementing social policies—from immigration restriction to sexual sterilization and euthanasia—that influence and even direct what (...) sorts of people populate our future. Despite recognition of the horrors of the eugenic extremes of the past and of the subhumanizing of those sufficiently below appearance or ability norms to be viewed as “defective” or “unfit”, many people continue to be drawn to strands of eugenic thinking. (shrink)
This paper considers ten questions that those puzzled by or skeptical of extended cognition have posed. Discussion of these questions ranges across substantive, methodological, and dialectical issues in the ongoing debate over extended cognition, such as whether the issue between proponents and opponents of extended cognition is merely semantic or a matter of convention; whether extended cognition should be treated in the same way as extended biology; and whether conscious mental states pose a special problem for the extended mind thesis. (...) Lethocerus, the giant water bug, will be a recurrent reference point for much of the discussion. (shrink)
This book offers the first sustained critique of individualism in psychology, a view that has been the subject of debate between philosophers such as Jerry Fodor and Tyler Burge for many years. The author approaches individualism as an issue in the philosophy of science and by discussing issues such as computationalism and the mind's modularity he opens the subject up for non-philosophers in psychology and computer science. Professor Wilson carefully examines the most influential arguments for individualism and identifies the main (...) metaphysical assumptions underlying them. Since the topic is so central to the philosophy of mind, a discipline generating enormous research and debate at present, the book has implications for a very broad range of philosophical issues including the naturalisation of intentionality, psychophysical supervenience, the nature of mental causation, and the viability of folk psychology. (shrink)
The Eugenic Mind Project is a wide-ranging, philosophical book that explores and critiques both past and present eugenic thinking, drawing on the author’s intimate knowledge of eugenics in North America and his previous work on the cognitive, biological, and social sciences, the fragile sciences. Informed by the perspectives of Canadian eugenics survivors in the province of Alberta, The Eugenic Mind Project recounts the history of eugenics and the thinking that drove it, and critically engages contemporary manifestations of eugenic thought, newgenics. (...) An accessible, original work of scholarship adopting what the author calls a standpoint eugenics, this book focuses on the roots of eugenic thinking past and present. It will provoke and enrich discussions about human nature and human diversity, the social uses of biotechnology, and social policy governing future generations. (shrink)
"Amongst the human mind's proudest accomplishments is the invention of a science dedicated to understanding itself: cognitive science. ... This volume is an authoritative guide to this exhilarating new body of knowledge, written by the experts, edited with skill and good judment. If we were to leave a time capsule for the next millennium with records of the great achievements of civilization, this volume would have to be in it."--Steven Pinker.
In Wilson (2019), I articulated and defended a version of the Westermarck Effect by developing a phylogenetic argument that has purchase within primatology but that has had more limited appeal for cultural anthropologists due to their commitment to conventionalist or culture-first accounts of incest avoidance. Here I look to advance the discussion of incest and incest avoidance beyond culture-first accounts in two ways. First, I shall dig deeper into the disciplinary grooves within cultural anthropology that make attractive the view that (...) incest has a naturalness to it that is countered only or primarily by explicit social rules, such as taboos. Second I further explore the emerging, post-conventionalist view of incest avoidance in a more positive vein by elaborating on the nature of the Westermarckian mechanism and how it relates to such explicit social rules and our innate biological endowments. One general aim here is to overcome the bifurcation between perspectives that are seen as biological and those seen as cultural, pre-empting or countering the claim that rejecting culture-first accounts entails a form of biological reductionism, a general aim I have pursued in related publications on bioessentialism about kinship (Wilson 2016a, 2016b). (shrink)
Vision constitutes an interesting domain, or range of domains, for debate over the extended mind thesis, the idea that minds physically extend beyond the boundaries of the body. In part this is because vision and visual experience more particularly are sometimes presented as a kind of line in the sand for what we might call externalist creep about the mind: once all reasonable concessions have been made to externalists about the mind, visual experience marks a line beyond which lies a (...) safe haven for individualists. Here I want to put a little more pressure on such a view of visual experience, as well as to offer a more constructive, positive argument in defense of the idea of extended vision. (shrink)
John Locke is known within anthropology primarily for his empiricism, his views of natural laws, and his discussion of the state of nature and the social contract. Marilyn Strathern and Marshall Sahlins, however, have offered distinctive, novel, and broad reflections on the nature of anthropological knowledge that appeal explicitly to a lesser-known aspect of Locke’s work: his metaphysical views of relations. This paper examines their distinctive conclusions – Sahlins’ about cultural relativism, Strathern’s about relatives and kinship – both of which (...) concern the objectivity of anthropological knowledge. Although Locke’s own views of relations have been neglected by historians of philosophy in the past, recent and ongoing philosophical discussions of Locke on relations create a productive trading zone between philosophy and anthropology on the objectivity of anthropological knowledge that goes beyond engagement with the particular claims made by Sahlins and Strathern. (shrink)
A far-reaching and influential view in evolutionary biology claims that species are cohesive units held together by gene flow. Biologists have recognized empirical problems facing this view; after sharpening the expression of the view, we present novel conceptual problems for it. At the heart of these problems is a distinction between two importantly different concepts of cohesion, what we call integrative and response cohesion. Acknowledging the distinction problematizes both the explanandum of species cohesion and the explanans of gene flow that (...) are central to the view we discuss. We conclude by tracing four broader implications for the study and conceptualization of species. (shrink)
This chapter steps back from the important psychological work on collaborative remembering at the heart of the present volume to take up some broader questions about the place of memory in Western cultural thought, both historically and in contemporary society, offering the kind of integrative and reflective perspective for which philosophy is often known. In particular, the text aims to shed some light on the relationship between collaborative memory and the other two topics in this title—group-level cognizing and individuals—beginning with (...) the relationship between collective intentionality and collaborative remembering, and concluding with some brief comments on the politics of collaborative remembering by drawing on recent work that has been undertaken with eugenics survivors in Canada. (shrink)
In the intersection between eugenics past and present, disability has never been far beneath the surface. Perceived and ascribed disabilities of body and mind were one of the core sets of eugenics traits that provided the basis for institutionalized and sterilization on eugenic grounds for the first 75 years of the 20th-century. Since that time, the eugenic preoccupation with the character of future generations has seeped into what have become everyday practices in the realm of reproductive choice. As Marsha Saxton (...) (2000) and Adrienne Asch (2000, 2003) have forcefully argued, the use of prenatal screening technologies to facilitate the selective abortion of fetuses with features that signify disabling traits—the paradigm here being trisomy 21 in a fetus indicating Down Syndrome in the child—express a negative view of such disabilities sufficient to warrant terminating an otherwise wanted pregnancy. The eliminative structure of what Rosemary Garland Thompson (2012) has called eugenic logic persists in contemporary practices governing reproductive choice, social inclusion, and democratic participation and their relationship to disability. The tie between eugenics and contemporary disability studies suggests that eugenics and reflection on its history can also play a more positive role in disability politics. After focusing on eugenics in the first half of the paper, we will shift in the second half of the paper to eugenic resonances in contemporary thought and practice, concluding with some thoughts about ongoing practices of silencing and the very idea of eradicating disability. (shrink)
This article defends a version of the Westermarck Effect, integrating existing clinical, biological, and philosophical dimensions to incest avoidance. By focusing on care-based attachment in primates, my formulation of the effect suggests the power of a phylogenetic argument widely accepted by primatologists but not by cultural anthropologists. Identifying postadoption incest as a phenomenon with underexplored evidential value, the article sketches an explanatory strategy for reconciling the effect with the clinical reality of incest, concluding with an explicit argument against culture-first or (...) conventionalist accounts of incest avoidance prevalent in anthropology. (shrink)
I think there is something to be said in a positive and constructive vein about collective intentionality in non-human animals. Doing so involves probing at the concept of collective intentionality fairly directly (Section 2), considering the various forms that collective intentionality might take (Section 3), showing some sensitivity to the history of appeals to that concept and its close relatives (Section 4), and raising some broader questions about the relationships between sociality, cognition, and institutions by discussing two different possible cases (...) of collective intentionality in non-human animals: that of the social insects (Section 5) and that of highly social mammals, such as canines (Section 6). If the discussion here is on track, then the widely shared perspective on collective intentionality exemplified by the work of Searle and Tomasello needs to be reconsidered. (shrink)
This paper argues that the metarepresentational systems we posses are wide or extended, rather than individualistic. There are two basic ideas. The first is that metarepresentation inherits its width from the mental representation of its objects. The second is that mental processing often operates on internal and external symbols, and this suggests that cognitive systems extend beyond the heads that house them.
As the pluralization in the title of MITECS suggests, and as many reviewers have noted, the stance that we adopted as general editors for this project was ecumenical. We were particularly concerned to generate a volume whose range of topics and perspectives indicated that “cognitive science” was different things to different groups of researchers, and that many even fundamental questions remain open after at least four decades of various interdisciplinary ventures. Implicit in this view is a wariness of any putative (...) magic key to understanding the complexities of cognition in all of its diversity, and the hope that by providing a forum in which this range of work could be reviewed by anyone with time and inclination, the field as a whole would be better positioned to reflect on its future directions. -/- Readers of the preceding reviews might be interested in a few words about the development of the project. Contracted in the early summer of 1995, MITECS began as a volume projected at half of its eventual size, but with roughly the same scope it has in published form. The general editors, Frank Keil and myself, had been thinking about a volume of this sort independently over the preceding year or so, and so much of the structure of the volume was already outlined by mid-1995. Thus, we were able to move relatively quickly in the second half of 1995 to assemble a team of 9 advisory editors for the six sections that constitute the organization of the volume; as reviewers have noted, the presence of these sections in the print version is manifest primarily by the six overview essays that occupy the first 100 or so pages in MITECS. (shrink)
In this initially daunting but ultimately enjoyable and informative book, Mohan Matthen argues that this tradition is mistaken about both the processes of perception or sensing and the relationship between sensation, perception, and cognition. Since this tradition is sufficiently alive and well in the contemporary literature to constitute something like the received view of perception and the role of sensation in it, Matthen’s challenge and the alternative view he proposes are potentially significant. Sensory systems, Matthen thinks, are primarily devices for (...) sorting objects into kinds, a process resulting in sensory quality spaces that provide the basis for judgments about and inductions over what there is in the world perceived. Sensory systems do not deliver ‘raw’ sense data, fleeting qualia, or unordered sensations for true cognitive processing; rather, they deliver an output that is sorted and ordered, an output that is already, in traditional terms, conceptualized. Sensory experience or sensations come not ‘before’ cognition but ‘after’ it. When we think about sensory systems in general, and not just the small subset of them that we possess, sensory experience is thus a kind of icing on the cake of perception, not one of its crucial ingredients. (shrink)
This volume of twelve specially commissioned essays about species draws on the perspectives of prominent researchers from anthropology , botany, developmental psychology , the philosophy of biology and science, protozoology, and zoology . The concept of species has played a focal role in both evolutionary biology and the philosophy of biology , and the last decade has seen something of a publication boom on the topic (e.g., Otte and Endler 1989; Ereshefsky 1992b; Paterson 1994; lambert and Spence 1995; Claridge, Dawah, (...) and Wilson 1997; Wheeler and Meier 1999; Howard and Berlocher 1998). (shrink)
Eugenics is commonly thought of as having endured as science and social movement only until 1945. With the advance of both reproductive and enhancement technologies, however, concern has arisen that eugenics has resurfaced in new forms. In particular, the eugenic potential of the Human Genome Project led to talk of the rise of ‘newgenics’ and of a backdoor to eugenics. This article focuses on such concerns deriving from the practice of prenatal screening and technologies that increase our ability to generate (...) information about the kinds of children we are likely to have. Given individual preferences and social norms concerning what traits are intergenerationally desirable, how should we act and what practices and policies should we endorse or scrutinise? This article will concentrate on key components of eugenic thinking present today and emphasise continuities between the eugenic past and new- genic present in the subhumanisation of people with cognitive or intellectual disabilities. (shrink)
It is not a particularly hard thing to want or seek explanations. In fact, explanations seem to be a large and natural part of our cognitive lives. Children ask why and how questions very early in development and seem genuinely to want some sort of answer, despite our often being poorly equipped to provide them at the appropriate level of sophistication and detail. We seek and receive explanations in every sphere of our adult lives, whether it be to understand why (...) a friendship has foundered, why a car will not start, or why ice expands when it freezes. Moreover, correctly or incorrectly, most of the time we think we know when we have or have not received a good explanation. There is a sense both that a given, successful explanation satisfies a cognitive need, and that a questionable or dubious explanation does not. There are also compelling intuitions about what make good explanations in terms of their form, that is, a sense of when they are structured correctly. (shrink)
In metaphysics, the view that material constitution is transitive is ubiquitous, an assumption expressed by both proponents and critics of constitution views. Likewise, it is typically assumed within the philosophy of mind that physical realization is a transitive relation. In both cases, this assumption of transitivity plays a role in discussion of the broader implications of a metaphysics that invokes either relation. Here I provide reasons for questioning this assumption and the uses to which this appeal to transitivity is put. (...) As my title suggests, I shall focus on the case of material constitution, using a brief discussion of realization at the outset to motivate the discussion of the transitivity of material constitution at the core of the paper. (shrink)