I argue that the study of variability rather than invariance should head the reading research agenda, and that strong claims of orthographic are unwarranted. I also expand briefly on Frost's assertion that an efficient orthography must represent sound and meaning, by considering writing systems as dual-purpose devices that must provide decipherability for novice readers and automatizability for the expert.
Quantum field theory (QFT) combines quantum mechanics with Einstein's special theory of relativity and underlies elementary particle physics. This book presents a philosophical analysis of QFT. It is the first treatise in which the philosophies of space-time, quantum phenomena, and particle interactions are encompassed in a unified framework. Describing the physics in nontechnical terms, and schematically illustrating complex ideas, the book also serves as an introduction to fundamental physical theories. The philosophical interpretation both upholds the reality of the quantum world (...) and acknowledges the irreducible cognitive elements in its representation. The interpretation is based on an analysis of our ways of thinking as the are embedded in the logical structure of QFT. The author argues that philosophical categories are significant only if they play active and essential roles in our knowledge and hence constitute part of the theories in actual use. Thus she regards physical theories as primary, extracts their categorical structure, and uses it to rethink key philosophical questions. Among the questions this book tries to answer are: What are the quantum properties independent of measurements? How do we refer to individual things in a continuous field? How do theories relate to objects? What are the general conditions of the world and of our ways of thinking that make possible our knowledge of the microscopic realm, which is so intangible and counterintuitive? As a penetrating analysis of vital themes in contemporary science, the book will engage the interest of students and professionals in physics and philosophy alike. (shrink)
Some apparently valid arguments crucially rely on context change. To take a kind of example first discussed by Frege, ‘Tomorrow, it’ll be sunny’ taken on a day seems to entail ‘Today, it’s sunny’ taken on the next day, but the first sentence taken on a day sadly does not seem to entail the second sentence taken on the second next day. Mid-argument context change has not been accounted for by the tradition that has extensively studied the distinctive logical (...) properties of context-dependent languages, for that tradition has focussed on arguments whose premises and conclusions are taken at the same context. I first argue for the desiderability of having a logic that accounts for mid-argument context change and I explain how one can informally understand such context change in a standard framework in which the relation of logical consequence holds among sentences. I then propose a family of simple temporal “intercontextual” logics that adequately model the validity of certain arguments in which the context changes. In particular, such logics validate the apparently valid argument in the Fregean example. The logics lack many traditional structural properties (reflexivity, contraction, commutativity etc.) as a consequence of the logical significance acquired by the sequence structure of premises and conclusions. The logics are however strong enough to capture in the form of logical truths all the valid arguments of both classical logic and Kaplan-style “intracontextual” logic. Finally, I extend the framework by introducing new operations into the object language, such as intercontextual conjunction, disjunction and implication, which, contrary to intracontextual conjunction, disjunction and implication, perfectly match the metalinguistic, intercontextual notions of premise combination, conclusion combination and logical consequence by representing their respective two operands as taken at different contexts. (shrink)
Some philosophers have argued recently that introspective evidence provides direct support for an intentionalist theory of visual experience. An intentionalist theory of visual experience treats experience as an intentional state, a state with an intentional content. (I shall use the word ’state’ in a general way, for any kind of mental phenomenon, and here I shall not distinguish states proper from events, though the distinction is important.) Intentionalist theories characteristically say that the phenomenal character of an experience, what it is (...) like to have the experience, is exhausted by its intentional content. Visual experience, and on some views sense-experience generally, does not involve the awareness of ’qualia’, intrinsic, non-intentional features of the experience. According to Gilbert Harman and Michael Tye, support for this view comes from introspecting on experience. Tye describes his ’argument from introspection’ as follows: Standing on the beach in Santa Barbara a couple of summers ago on a bright sunny day, I found myself transfixed by the intense blue of the Pacific Ocean. Was I not here delighting in the phenomenal aspects of my visual experience? And if I was, doesn’t this show that there are visual qualia? I am not convinced. It seems to me that what I found so pleasing in the above instance, what I was focusing on, as it were, were a certain shade and intensity of the colour blue. I experienced blue as a property of the ocean not as a property of my experience. My experience itself certainly wasn’t blue. Rather, it was an experience which represented the ocean as blue. What I was really delighting in, then, were specific aspects of the content of the experience. Tye goes on to suggest that this might have been the sort of thing Moore meant when he said that the sensation of blue is ’diaphanous’, and glosses this as follows: When one tries to focus on it in introspection one cannot help but see right through it so that what one actually ends up attending to is the real colour blue. 1An early version of this paper was presented at the conference, Mental Phenomena III in Dubrovnik, Croatia.. (shrink)
It is now fashionable to say that science and technology are social constructions. This is true, or rather, a truism. Man is a social animal. Man is a linguistic animal, and language is social. Hence all products of human activities and everything that involves language are social constructions. But an assertion that covers everything becomes empty. The constructionist mantra that science or technology is “not a simple input from nature” attacks a straw man, for no one denies the necessity of (...) enormous human efforts in research, development, and design. To say that these are social activities should not imply that they are indistinguishable from other social activities such as politicking or profiteering. An investigation into their peculiarities will bring to relief their intellectual and technical characteristics. The argument that science and technology are social constructions because they involve many assumptions is again a truism. Whenever we think, whenever we find things intelligible, we invariably have used some concepts and made some assumptions. Philosophers such as Kant have painstakingly analyzed concepts without which intelligibility is impossible. The important questions are not whether scientists and engineers make assumptions but what kind of assumptions they make; not whether they make judgments, but what kind of reasons they offer to support their judgments. Are the assumptions and justifications all social? Or are they mainly technical? Admittedly, the boundaries between the two are not always sharp, but is it impossible to make any differentiation at all? (shrink)
Degrees of belief are familiar to all of us. Our conﬁdence in the truth of some propositions is higher than our conﬁdence in the truth of other propositions. We are pretty conﬁdent that our computers will boot when we push their power button, but we are much more conﬁdent that the sun will rise tomorrow. Degrees of belief formally represent the strength with which we believe the truth of various propositions. The higher an agent’s degree of belief for a particular (...) proposition, the higher her conﬁdence in the truth of that proposition. For instance, Sophia’s degree of belief that it will be sunny in Vienna tomorrow might be .52, whereas her degree of belief that the train will leave on time might be .23. The precise meaning of these statements depends, of course, on the underlying theory of degrees of belief. These theories offer a formal tool to measure degrees of belief, to investigate the relations between various degrees of belief in different propositions, and to normatively evaluate degrees of belief. (shrink)
Does a board with greater gender diversity make better investment decisions? Drawing on Austrian economic cycle theory and work groups theory, we argue that such board openness will help male board members to overcome gender biases, discrimination, and conflicts; integrate different perspectives under the economic cycle and crisis; and foster an environment in which better decisions are made. The results of an empirical study of 14,609 firm-quarter observations from 1,555 listed firms in China between 2007 and 2009 strongly support our (...) arguments. We find that a Chinese board is more likely to accept female directorship during an economic crisis than during an economic prosperity stage. Boards with greater gender diversity are more likely to make tough, counter-cyclical investments to improve firm performance during a crisis. Our study enriches the board decision-making literature by exploring the impacts of board gender diversity on firm performance within the context of an economic crisis. The results of our study also carry significant managerial implications for overcoming gender stereotypes, biases, and prejudices on a board. (shrink)
This paper presents two interpretations of the fiber bundle formalism that is applicable to all gauge field theories. The constructionist interpretation yields a substantival spacetime. The analytic interpretation yields a structural spacetime, a third option besides the familiar substantivalism and relationalism. That the same mathematical formalism can be derived in two different ways leading to two different ontological interpretations reveals the inadequacy of pure formal arguments.
Epistemology is the study of knowledge and justified belief. Belief is thus central to epistemology. It comes in a qualitative form, as when Sophia believes that Vienna is the capital of Austria, and a quantitative form, as when Sophia's degree of belief that Vienna is the capital of Austria is at least twice her degree of belief that tomorrow it will be sunny in Vienna. Formal epistemology, as opposed to mainstream epistemology (Hendricks 2006), is epistemology done in a formal (...) way, that is, by employing tools from logic and mathematics. The goal of this entry is to give the reader an overview of the formal tools available to epistemologists for the representation of belief. A particular focus will be the relation between formal representations of qualitative belief and formal representations of quantitative degrees of belief. (shrink)
Most philosophers appear to have ignored the distinction between the broad concept of Virtual Machine Functionalism (VMF) described in Sloman&Chrisley (2003) and the better known version of functionalism referred to there as Atomic State Functionalism (ASF), which is often given as an explanation of what Functionalism is, e.g. in Block (1995). -/- One of the main differences is that ASF encourages talk of supervenience of states and properties, whereas VMF requires supervenience of machines that are arbitrarily complex networks of causally (...) interacting (virtual, but real) processes, possibly operating on different time-scales, examples of which include many different procesess usually running concurrently on a modern computer performing various tasks concerned with handling interfaces to physical devices, managing the file system, dealing with security, providing tools, entertainments, and games, and possibly processing research data. Another example of VMF would be the kind of functionalism involved in a large collection of possibly changing socio-economic structures and processes interacting in a complex community, and yet another is illustrated by the kind of virtual machinery involved in the many levels of visual processing of information about spatial structures, processes, and relationships (including percepts of moving shadows, reflections, highlights, optical-flow patterns and changing affordances) as you walk through a crowded car-park on a sunny day: generating a whole zoo of interacting qualia. (Forget solitary red patches, or experiences thereof.) -/- Perhaps VMF should be re-labelled "Virtual MachinERY Functionalism" because the word 'machinery' more readily suggests something complex with interacting parts. VMF is concerned with virtual machines that are made up of interacting concurrently active (but not necessarily synchronised) chunks of virtual machinery which not only interact with one another and with their physical substrates (which may be partly shared, and also frequently modified by garbage collection, metabolism, or whatever) but can also concurrently interact with and refer to various things in the immediate and remote environment (via sensory/motor channels, and possible future technologies also). I.e. virtual machinery can include mechanisms that create and manipulate semantic content, not only syntactic structures or bit patterns as digital virtual machines do. -/- Please note: Click on the title above or the link below to read the paper. I prefer to keep all my papers freely accessible on my web site so that I can correct mistakes and add improvements. -/- http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/research/projects/cogaff/misc/vm-functionalism.html -/- This is now part of the Meta-Morphogenesis project: http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/research/projects/cogaff/misc/meta-morphogenesis.html. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that, when it comes to explaining what can be described as “representational” properties of propositions, Soames’s new conception of propositions—on which the proposition that Seattle is sunny is the act of predicating the property being sunny of Seattle and to entertain that proposition is to perform that act—does not have an advantage over traditional ones.
. This paper suggests that most of the FTSE-listed firms in the United Kingdom use corporate environmental policy statements (CEPS) to communicate their strategic intent of what environmental and social targets to attain, and broad guidelines of how they will progressively achieve all the required changes and new developments. In this paper, we link the contents of CEPS of a sample of FTSE-listed firms (from the chemical, pharmaceutical and food industry that are committed to develop business excellence) to the voluntary (...) participation in the environmental benchmarking exercise and the various levels of environmental performance therein. The findings suggest that in contrast to their non-participating counterparts, the strategic focus of the participating firms transcends from simply mitigating any potential damages that their operations might have on the environment to business process reengineering and building new implementation capabilities. However, not all of the participating firms achieved excellence in their environmental performance, the high performing firms outweighed their counterparts on their emphasis on technological competence and competitiveness, and interestingly, the average-performing firms would use the strategic emphasis on social responsibility to compensate for their mediocre technological competence. (shrink)
The word 'belief' is ambiguous, referring sometimes to what is believed, sometimes to the act or state of believing it. I believe that as I write this it is sunny outside. This belief is true. What is true is what I believe, namely that it is sunny, not my believing it. On the other hand, my belief that it is sunny is rational and unshakeable, and it played a causal role in my deciding not to wear a (...) coat today. What is rational, unshakeable, and played a causal role is my believing a certain thing, not the thing I believe. I will say that what I believe is an object of belief , and that my believing it is a belief state. (shrink)
Scholars in science and technologies studies talk about a “pure science ideology” or “scientific ideology.” Stereotyping applied science as a dull and mindless practice that generates no new knowledge, the ideology grossly distorts both pure and applied science. What is its origin?
All complex systems are complex, but some are more complex than others are. Biological systems are generally more complex than physical systems. How do biologists tackle complex systems? In this talk, we will consider two biological systems, the genome and the brain. Scientists know much about them, but much more remains unknown. Ignorance breeds philosophical speculation. Reductionism makes a strong showing here, as it does in other frontier sciences where large gaps remain in our understanding. I will show that reductionism (...) and its claims have no bases in actual scientific research and results. The Human Genome Project will serve as a case in point.. (shrink)
Philosophers tend to be pretty impressed by human self-knowledge. Descartes (1641/1984) thought our knowledge of our own stream of experience was the secure and indubitable foundation upon which to build our knowledge of the rest of the world. Hume – who was capable of being skeptical about almost anything – said that the only existences we can be certain of are our own sensory and imagistic experiences (1739/1978, p. 212). Perhaps the most prominent writer on self-knowledge in contemporary philosophy is (...) Sydney Shoemaker. The central aim of much of his work has been to show that certain sorts of error are impossible (1963, 1988, 1994). David Chalmers has likewise attempted to show that, for a suitably constrained class of beliefs about one’s own consciousness, error is impossible (2003, sec. 4.1). Even philosophers most of the community thinks of as pessimistic about self-knowledge of consciousness seem to me, really, to be fairly optimistic. Paul Churchland, famous for his disdain of ordinary people’s knowledge about the mind, compares the accuracy of introspection to the accuracy of sense perception – pretty good, presumably, about medium-sized, nearby matters (1985, 1988). Dan Dennett, often cited as a pessimist about introspective report, actually says that we can come close to infallibility when charitably interpreted (2002). The above references concern knowledge of the stream of conscious experience, but philosophers have also tended to be impressed with our self-knowledge of our attitudes, such as our beliefs and desires. Consider this: Although I can be wrong about its being sunny outside, I can’t in the same way be wrong, it seems, about the fact that I think it’s sunny outside. Some.. (shrink)
The supervaluationist approach to branching time (‘SBT-theory’) appears to be threatened by the puzzle of retrospective determinacy: if yesterday I uttered the sentence ‘It will be sunny tomorrow’ and only in some worlds overlapping at the context of utterance it is sunny the next day, my utterance is to be assessed as neither true nor false even if today is indeed a sunny day. John MacFarlane (“Truth in the Garden of Forking Paths” 81) has recently criticized a (...) promising solution to this puzzle for falling short of an adequate account of ‘actually’. In this paper, I aim to rebut MacFarlane's criticism. To this effect, I argue that: (i) ‘actually’ can be construed either as an indexical or as a nonindexical operator; (ii) if ‘actually’ is nonindexical, MacFarlane's criticism is invalid; (iii) there appear to be independent reasons for SBT-theorists to claim that ‘actually’ is a nonindexical expression. (shrink)
America has poured about 200 billion dollars into cancer research since President Nixon declared war on cancer in 1971. How is the war going after three decades? Why do assessments vary as widely as “beating cancer” and “loosing the war on cancer?”.
Behaviors of chaotic systems are unpredictable. Chaotic systems are deterministic, their evolutions being governed by dynamical equations. Are the two statements contradictory? They are not, because the theory of chaos encompasses two levels of description. On a higher level, unpredictability appears as an emergent property of systems that are predictable on a lower level. In this talk, we examine the structure of dynamical theories to see how they employ multiple descriptive levels to explain chaos, bifurcation, and other complexities of nonlinear (...) systems.. (shrink)
One winter’s Saturday Clarence wakes up. He realises he has left his umbrella at work. The oﬃce is locked, and he can’t get in. Being one of those people who punish themselves for their mistakes, he can’t bring himself to buy a replacement. He has an engagement six kilometres down the road and starts wondering whether it will rain. Normally, this would not be a problem, but his motor vehicle has broken down because he forgot to have it serviced. And (...) of course, he blames himself for this mistake, so it is only natural that he can’t bring himself to hire a cab or take a bus. He really should hope that it rains and that he gets drenched on the way to his engagement, but he is only human after all, and a small part of himhopes that it is a sunny day. (shrink)
This paper suggests that most of the FTSE-listed firms in the United Kingdom use corporate environmental policy statements to communicate their strategic intent of what environmental and social targets to attain, and broad guidelines of how they will progressively achieve all the required changes and new developments. In this paper, we link the contents of CEPS of a sample of FTSE-listed firms to the voluntary participation in the environmental benchmarking exercise and the various levels of environmental performance therein. The findings (...) suggest that in contrast to their non-participating counterparts, the strategic focus of the participating firms transcends from simply mitigating any potential damages that their operations might have on the environment to business process reengineering and building new implementation capabilities. However, not all of the participating firms achieved excellence in their environmental performance, the high performing firms outweighed their counterparts on their emphasis on technological competence and competitiveness, and interestingly, the average-performing firms would use the strategic emphasis on social responsibility to compensate for their mediocre technological competence. (shrink)
In the past two or three decades, complexity not only has been a hot research topic but has caught the popular imagination. Terms such as chaos and bifurcation become so common they find their way into Hollywood movies. What is complexity? What is the theory of complexity or the science of complexity? I do not think there is such a thing as the theory of complexity. Not even a rigid definition of complexity exists in the natural sciences. There are many (...) theories trying to address various complex systems. What I try to do is to extract some general ideas that are implicit in these theories, and more generally, in the way that scientists face and think about complicated situations. (shrink)
Plants are permanently impacted by their environments, and their abilities to tolerate multiple fluctuating environmental conditions vary as a function of several genetic and natural factors. Over the past decades, scientific innovations and applications of the knowledge derived from biotechnological investigations to agriculture caused a substantial increase of the yields of many crops. However, due to exacerbating effects of climate change and a growing human population, a crisis of malnutrition may arise in the upcoming decades in some places in the (...) world. So, effective, ethical and managerial regulations and fair policies should be set up and applied at the local and global levels so that Earth may fairly provide the food and living accommodation needed by its inhabitants. To save some energy consumption, electric devices should be manufactured to work with solar energy, whenever available, particularly in sunny countries where sun is available most of the time. Such characteristic will save energy and make solar energy-based smartphones and laptops less cumbersome in terms of chargers and plugging issues. (shrink)
How does aspirin reduce pain and inflammation? How does it prevent heart attacks? Why does it upset the stomach? How do scientists discover the answers? This article examines research and development in the history from willow bark to aspirin to “super aspirins” Celebrex and Vioxx. Scientists adopt various approaches: trial and error, laboratory experiment, clinical test, elucidation of underlying mechanisms, concept-directed research, and rational drug design. Each approach is limited, but they complement each other in unraveling the mystery of a (...) wonder drug. (shrink)
Speculations from God’s position are illusory; we have no access to that position. Ontology concerns not with what exist as God ordains but with what exist as intelligible within the bounds of human understanding. It calls for analyzing not only nature but also the characteristics of our own thinking that make possible analysis and knowledge of nature, so that we do not inadvertently attribute our conceptual contributions to what exist naturally.
Emotion theorists in contemporary discussion have divided into two camps. The one claims that emotions are reducible to bodily feelings; the other holds that emotions are reducible to belief, desire or evaluative judgement. In an effort to avoid such reductionist view, Goldie suggests that emotions involve two kinds of feelings: bodily feelings and feeling towards. In spite of Goldie’s efforts, I argue that explaining our emotional disposition in terms of ‘feeling toward’ remains distinctly unsatisfactory. Furthermore, though sympathetic to his project, (...) I give reasons for doubting that there are two such distinct kinds of feeling, one of which has only borrowed intentionality, while the other has intentionality intrinsically. (shrink)
My aim in this paper is to illuminate the limitations of adopting thick ethical concepts to support the rationality of moral emotion. To this end, I shall first of all concentrate on whether emotions, especially moral emotions are thick concepts and can be analysed into both evaluative and descriptive components. Secondly,I shall examine Gibbard’s thesis that to judge an act wrong is to think guilt and anger warranted. I then raise the following question. If we identify moral considerations with anger (...) in particular, it overly emphasizes one seemingly arbitrary emotion. In other words, I doubt whether ‘other’s anger’ can be the general concept corresponding to thick concepts such as courage or generosity. My doubt about the objectivity of Gibbard’s moral emotion depends on Bernard Williams’doubt about ethical objectivity in terms of a critical notice of the distinction between thick and thin ethical concepts. Finally, I shall pose a challenge to the distinction between thick and thin ethical concepts on the ground that it is not in fact a clear one. I shall argue that it is impossible clearly to classify various ethical concepts either as thick or thin. This is because, I shall argue, as Scheffler points out, “any division of ethical concepts into the two categories of the thick and the thin is itself a considerable oversimplication.” Indeed, I shall argue, our ethical vocabulary is tragically rich with an irreconcilable plurality of values. If my analysis is right, I argue Gibbard’s attempt to appeal to thick concepts to explain the rationality of moral emotion is open to question. (shrink)
The recent work of Paul Teller and Sunny Auyang in the philosophy of Quantum Field Theory (QFT) has stimulated the search for the fundamental entities in this theory. In QFT, the classical notion of a particle collapses. The theory does not only exclude classical, i.e., spatiotemporally identifiable particles, but it makes particles of the same type conceptually indistinguishable. Teller and Auyang have proposed competing ersatz-ontologies to account for the 'loss of particles': field quanta vs. field events. Both ontologies, however, (...) suffer from serious defects. While quanta lack numerical identity, spatiotemporal localizability, and independence of basis-representations, events--if understood as concrete measurement events--are related to the theory only statistically. I propose an alternative solution: The entities of QFT are events of the type 'Quantum system, S, is in quantum state, Ψ '. These are not point events, but Davidsonian events, i.e., they can be identified by their location within the causal net of the world. (shrink)
Stone-walling dialogues are exercises in structured non-cooperation. It is true that dialogue participants need to cooperate with one another and in ways sufficient to make possible the very dialogue they are now having. Beyond that there is room for non-cooperation on a scale that gives great offence to what we call the Goody Two-Shoes Model of argument. In this paper, we argue that non-cooperation dialogues have perfectly legitimate objectives and that in relation to those objectives they need not be considered (...) at all subpar to conversations that brim with sunny amity.Two categories of stone-walling non-cooperation dialogues are here examined. They are called MindClosed and NoEngage. They are exemplified by the following cases:1. Hostile Police Interrogation2. Judicial Cross-Examination3. Department Store Complaints Management4. Lakatosian Science5. Gödel's First Incompleteness Proof. (shrink)
In explaining emotion, there are strong cognitive views, which reduce emotion to belief/thought or judgment. Misgivings about assimilating emotion to belief/thought/judgment have been a main reason for moving towards perceptual accounts for many authors. My aim in this paper is to defend a perceptual theory. To this end, I first argue against a crude version of cognitivism that views emotion essentially in terms of thought or belief. I then argue that doubts about the assimilation of emotion to belief explain the (...) appeal of ‘perception’ as the ‘cognitive element’ most appropriate to the analysis of emotion. Then I shall discuss why perception is the right category to fit emotional responses into by contrasting some considerations adduced by Sabine Döring and by Jesse Prinz. I shall show that Prinz ignores the perspective aspect of perception, while Döring fails to explain the indiscriminability in perceptual experience. For these reasons, both Prinz’s and Döring’s views are insufficient to explain emotional recalcitrance or unmerited emotional response. To explain emotional recalcitrance, I argue that we must appeal to a disjunctivist theory of visual experience. I shall demonstrate why we should prefer the explanation in terms of indiscriminability over one which appeals to a common element, such as a thought or representation of something as dangerous, for example. The present critical examination will afford an alternative view of the appropriateness of emotions. (shrink)
Mind is not some mysterious mind stuff; no such stuff exists and the universe comprises only physical matter. It is an emergent property of certain complex material entities, not brains alone but whole human beings living and coping in the physical and social world. This thesis involves three ideas: materialism, emergent properties, and intentionality. The first two belong to the mind-body problem and the status of mental properties in the material universe. The third refers to the mind-world relation, the symbiotic (...) relation between subject and object in cognition and experience. (shrink)
Behaviors of chaotic systems are unpredictable. Chaotic systems are deterministic, their evolutions being governed by dynamical equations. Are the two statements contradictory? They are not, because the theory of chaos encompasses two levels of description. On a higher level, unpredictability appears as an emergent property of systems that are predictable on a lower level. In this talk, we examine the structure of dynamical theories to see how they employ multiple descriptive levels to explain chaos, bifurcation, and other complexities of nonlinear (...) systems. (shrink)
Georg Henrik von Wright always mentioned that his academic teachers had been Eino Kaila and Ludwig Wittgenstein. He even spoke of the two as his “father figures”. Georg Henrik was a sunny boy, but his “fathers” appear to be quite enigmatic. An industry of philosophical literature is needed to interpret Wittgenstein. Kaila seems to be at most a minor figure with some contacts to the Vienna Circle. It is not wrong to see von Wright as a follower of Wittgenstein, (...) and von Wright’s life-long work was decisive for the fact that all of Wittgenstein’s Nachlass is now available. In what follows, I will concentrate more on Kaila and his Viennese connections than on Wittgenstein. I make an attempt of trying to see the two “fathers” from a perspective that was or at least could have been von Wright’s contemporary view. Vienna – or, more accurately – the recent past of Vienna was also von Wright’s city of dreams. Kaila is an interesting case as concerns the networking typical of the Vienna Circle, especially as an example of Rudolf Carnap’s rich scientific contacts at that point of his career. It was Kaila who made the start of von Wright’s career possible and determined a number of his philosophical interests and orientations, including the specific way in which von Wright’s work can be said to be linked to the Vienna Circle and logical empiricism. Of course, after World War II “analytic philosophy” was the acceptable designation for that kind of work that von Wright was pursuing in Cambridge, but his story can not be told without attention to the impulses from Vienna. (shrink)
The problem of life’s origin remains one of the great outstanding challenges to science. Ever since Charles Darwin mused about a “warm little pond” incubating life beneath sunny primeval skies, scientists have speculated about the exact location of this transforming event. Nearly a century and a half later, we remain almost completely ignorant of the physical processes that led from a nonliving chemical mixture to the first autonomous organism. However, some progress at least has been made on tracking down (...) where and when life first established itself on Earth. Fossil evidence suggests that the biological record extends back at least 3.5 billion years, pointing to a still earlier origin1. But this presents a problem. The cratering record of the moon implies that Earth was subjected to intense bombardment by large comets and asteroids over an extended duration until about 3.8 billion years ago. The largest of these impacts would have released enough energy to swathe the planet in incandescent rock vapour, boiling the oceans and sending sterilizing heat pulses a kilometre into the exposed crust2. This unpromising setting – hardly a secure one for warm little ponds – has prompted some astrobiologists to conjecture that life began somewhere else and came to Earth readymade3. Favourite among extraterrestrial originating locations is the planet Mars4. (shrink)
“Inventing AIDS.” “Constructing cancers.” Relax; no bioterrorist mischief is implied. Like “Construction of nature,” “Social construction of illness,” “Social construction of scientific facts,” and many others, these are titles of scholarly books and projects in science, technology, and medicine studies. They express a fashion shared by doctrines loosely known under the rubric of postmodernism. It is recognizable by the frequent scare quotation marks around words such as truth, reality, scientific, and objectivity. The scare quotes convey the message that scientific knowledge (...) is so permeated by politics and cultural biases that it cannot be true and any claim to objectivity is illusory. (shrink)
PDF version This talk explores three concepts of system in engineering: systems theory, systems approach, and systems engineering. They are exemplified in three dimensions of engineering: science, design, and management. Unifying the three system concepts is the idea of function: functional abstraction in theory, functional analysis in design, and functional requirements in management. Signifying what a system is for, function is a purposive notion absent in physical science, which aims to understand nature. It is prominent in engineering, which aims to (...) transform nature for serving the wants and needs of people. (shrink)
Chance and accidents play important roles in scientific discoveries, but they are not blind luck. Serendipity is not merely stumbling on things unsought for, it is the ability to see significances and find values in the things stumbled upon. Without this ability, accidents do not lead to discoveries, as Pasteur observed: “Chance favors the prepared mind.” What are the characteristics of a prepared mind in science? How do chance and serendipity work in scientific research in general and drug discovery in (...) particular? (shrink)
The association of passion with desire has a long history, from Aristotle to contemporary philosophers. The Aristotelian conception of passion as involving desire has exerted a considerable influence on modern philosophers. I shall take this idea to be the thesis that emotion implies desire. In order to elaborate this thesis, in this paper, I shall focus on Hume’s theory of passion in Book 2 of Treatise. To this end, I first of all present an interpretation of Hume that relies on (...) an account of desire as such that I have developed. Secondly, I demonstrate what kinds of authority, if any, desires have in Hume’s view of the explanation of action. (shrink)
Much complexity we see around us stems from a similar source, structures generated by the interactive combination of many constituents. The constituents themselves can be rather simple, so can the relation between any two. However, because there are so many constituents in a large system, their multiple relations generate a relational network that can be highly complex, variegated, and surprising.
“Where's Dr. Tunzi?” Flor bellowed from the waiting room. “Is he here today?” Tattooed and built like a short middle linebacker, Flor is one of my favorite people. Despite schizophrenia, hepatitis C, and diabetes, she lives up to her name with a colorful and sunny personality. She and her partner, Nancy, have been my patients for about fifteen years, since I first met them at the small homeless clinic I help staff. I was away one day last year when (...) Flor and Nancy came in. It would be an understatement to say that it wasted everybody's time. But “team care” and “patient-centered medical home” are the buzzwords of the day. (shrink)