The concept of "fitness" is a notion of central importance to evolutionary theory. Yet the interpretation of this concept and its role in explanations of evolutionary phenomena have remained obscure. We provide a propensity interpretation of fitness, which we argue captures the intended reference of this term as it is used by evolutionary theorists. Using the propensity interpretation of fitness, we provide a Hempelian reconstruction of explanations of evolutionary phenomena, and we show why charges of circularity which have been levelled (...) against explanations in evolutionary theory are mistaken. Finally, we provide a definition of natural selection which follows from the propensity interpretation of fitness, and which handles all the types of selection discussed by biologists, thus improving on extant definitions. (shrink)
JM Coetzee has on several occasions been criticised for his failure to elaborate a political vision of transformation beyond the social and political conditions that he describes in his novels. Focusing on the novel ’Life and Times of Michael K’, I argue that this criticism fails to appreciate the conception of political futurity that is evident in Coetzee’s novels. For there emerges in Michael K a gesture of hope in which turning away from history is the condition of possibility for (...) hope for the future. Central to elaborating this gesture is the question of the status of the subject before the law, for it is on condition of the law’s suspension - or what Giorgio Agamben has identified as a condition of abandonment - that the possibility for future transformation develops. Thus I show that Michael K can profitably be read in conjunction with Agamben’s conception of biopolitics and the condition of abandonment that he argues characterises contemporary political existence. Read within this conceptual framework, Michael K appears as a limit-figure of the human and animal, in which the caesuras that Agamben argues cross the human being in modern politics become evident. Despite this apparent conceptual congruence, though, the particular figuration of hope or political futurity that Coetzee develops differs from Agamben’s in significant ways. For the latter, pushing the condition of abandonment to its extreme limit is the necessary condition for the inauguration of a redemptive ’form-of-life’ in which the human and inhuman elements of the human being can no longer be separated. Coetzee, however, offers a portrayal of hope that rests on the realisation of spaces for living within the ban of the law - spaces in which there is nevertheless ’time enough for everything’. (shrink)
More than two decades after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the issues of racial discrimination and affirmative action are still matters of controversy. The fragile national consensus on civil rights policy has been increasingly fragmented by resistance and confusion in recent years, especially under the impact of the Reagan administration's efforts to change its direction dramatically. Similarly, since the mid-1960s, the women's rights movement has worked to end discrimination and bring about greater equality for women in (...) employment and public life. Yet, recent years have witnessed increased national ambivalence about these goals and how they should be achieved, especially on the issue of comparable worth. (shrink)
How many words is a bilingual 2-year-old supposed to know or say in each of her languages? Speech and language therapists or researchers lack the tools to answer this question, because several factors have an impact on bilingual language skills: gender, amount of exposure, mode of acquisition, socio-economic status and the distance between L1 and L2. Unfortunately, these factors are usually studied separately, making it difficult to evaluate their weight on a unique measure of vocabulary. The present study measures the (...) contribution of the following factors to the vocabulary scores of bilingual toddlers: i) gender; ii) sibling ranking; iii) relative amount of exposure to each language; iv) mode of exposure; v) SES; vi) linguistic distance; vii) language spoken between parents. Close to the child’s second birthday, parents of 278 UK-based bilinguals completed successively: a 100-word version of the Oxford-CDI, the CDI in the child’s Additional Language, a family questionnaire, and the Language Exposure Questionnaire. Thirty-six British-English-AL pairs were considered, with languages contrasted on a second-language-learning scale : for example, Dutch and French are close to British-English, while Polish or Cantonese are more distant. Data from the corpus were included in two mixed-effect models, one with the English scores in comprehension as the dependent variable, and the other with production scores. The seven factors listed above were included as predictors. The amount of English exposure was the strongest predictor of comprehension scores = 9.35, p <.005, β = 0.02, t = 3.08, p <.005), followed by the language that parents speak between themselves = 14.94, p <.001, β = 1.37, t = 3.76, p <.0005), linguistic distance = 6.92, p <.01, β = -0.74, t = -2.66, p <.01) and age = 4.86, p <.05, β = 0.55, t = 2.17, p <.05). In production, gender = 13.57, p <.0005, β = -0.91, t = -03.72, p <.0005), amount of exposure to English = 13.57, p <.0005, β = -0.91, t = -03.72, p <.0005), the language that parents speak between themselves = 11.85, p <.005, β = 1.09, t = 3.41, p <.001), and the mother’s occupation = 4.51, p <.05, β = 0.63, t = 2.13, p <.05) were the significant predictors. The more English parents use to address one another, the more English words the child says and understands. This surprising result could be simply explained by the fact that parents who speak English together are also more likely to speak English to their child. The main results of this study is that linguistic distance is a powerful predictor of toddlers’ vocabulary in English, with children learning two close languages growing their vocabulary faster than those learning distant languages. (shrink)
Connectionism: Debates on Psychological Explanation, Volume Two Edited by Cynthia Macdonald and Graham Macdonald Blackwell, 1995. Pp. xvii + 424. ISBN 0-631-19744-3. 50.00 (hbk). ISBN 0-631-19745-1 16.99 (pbk). New books on the philosophy of religion Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason By J.L. Schellenberg, Cornell University Press, 1993. Pp. 217. ISBN 0-8014-2792-4. $36.50 (hbk). Reason and the Heart By William J. Wainwright, Cornell University Press, 1995. Pp. 160. ISBN 0-8014-3139-5. $28.50 (hbk). The Rationality of Belief and the Plurality of Faith Edited (...) by Thomas D. Senor, Cornell University Press, 1995. Pp. 291. ISBN 0-8014-3127-1. $39.95 (hbk). (shrink)
Between the later views of Wittgenstein and those of connectionism 1 on the subject of the mastery of language there is an impressively large number of similarities. The task of establishing this claim is carried out in the second section of this paper.
For many of us, our relationship with the College Art Association (CAA) centers around the organization's annual meeting, that cacophonous yearly ritual that sees job applicants, panelists, and old friends and colleagues descend upon a convention hotel for one long weekend in February. The recent publication The Eye, the Hand, the Mind: 100 Years of the College Art Association, edited by former CAA executive director Susan Ball, attempts to historicize not only this event but the entire range of the (...) association's activities over its long life. Additionally, it serves as a reminder to all of us that the organization has long engaged in a wide range of pursuits that extend well beyond planning its annual conference. .. (shrink)
My argument is that faced with such reversal of stereotypical female roles, the culture relies on both the institution of the law and the custom of storytelling to reassure itself about boundary confusions—between guilt and innocence, man and woman, seductress and seducer, fact and fiction. The Thaw trial, however, shows that the law itself could not resolve any of those ambiguities, a predicament which, I will argue, Twain entertains and creates in his own fictional courtroom but flees from in his (...) response to the actual trial.My argument thus depends upon establishing particular dialogue between these two cases of seduction, for neither Twain’s nor the journalistic accounts alone tell the story that the two together do. Both cases speak in common to two aspects of fictionality. One is a mode of social differentiation, the sexual and legal categories essential to both cases, but whose actual application was, for different reasons in each, momentarily suspended. It was impossible to decide, for example, whether Evelyn Thaw or Alice or Twain himself, for that matter, should be classified as victim or victimizer, as playing the active or passive role in their respective narratives. The temporary suspension of these categories, I will argue, does not invalidate them or brand them as “fictive,” but rather reveals them as culturally constructed and culturally applied, in Twain’s words “fictions of law and custom” . In both cases, the response to this moment when cultural categories cannot be definitively applied is a process of storytelling—a second aspect of fictionality—that attempts to construct coherent narratives about those suspended “fictions of law and custom.” Although Twain’s “Alice” case opens in 1877, not until it connects with the Thaw trial in 1907 does the full story, as I have just briefly outlined it, emerge. It is precisely that double story that this esay will tell: the story of how Twain’s personal compulsions met up with his culture’s in the act of reporting, representing, interpreting, and finally making its own events mean. Susan Gillman is assistant professor of literature and American studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. This essay is part of a forthcoming book, Dark Twins: Imposture and Identity in Mark Twain’s America. (shrink)