An enormous intellectual adventure. In this groundbreaking new book, the American biologist Edward O. Wilson, considered to be one of the world's greatest living scientists, argues for the fundamental unity of all knowledge and the need to search for consilience --the proof that everything in our world is organized in terms of a small number of fundamental natural laws that comprise the principles underlying every branch of learning. Professor Wilson, the pioneer of sociobiology and biodiversity, now once again breaks (...) out of the conventions of current thinking. He shows how and why our explosive rise in intellectual mastery of the truths of our universe has its roots in the ancient Greek concept of an intrinsic orderliness that governs our cosmos and the human species--a vision that found its apogee in the Age of Enlightenment, then gradually was lost in the increasing fragmentation and specialization of knowledge in the last two centuries. Drawing on the physical sciences and biology, anthropology, psychology, religion, philosophy, and the arts, Professor Wilson shows why the goals of the original Enlightenment are surging back to life, why they are reappearing on the very frontiers of science and humanistic scholarship, and how they are beginning to sketch themselves as the blueprint of our world as it most profoundly, elegantly, and excitingly is. (shrink)
The paper attempts to elucidate and evaluate William Whewell's notion of a "consilience of inductions." In section I Whewellian consilience is defined and shown to differ considerably from what latter-day writers talk about when they use the term. In section II a primary analysis of consilience is shown to yield two types of consilient processes, one in which one of the lower-level laws undergoes a conceptual change (the case aptly discussed in Butts ), and one in which (...) the explanatory theory undergoes conceptual "stretching." In section III both consilient cases are compared to the non-consilient case in reference to L. J. Cohen's method of relevant variables. In section IV we examine the test procedures of the theory in all three cases, and it is shown that in the event of genuine consilience (consilience of the second type) a theory acquires extraordinarily high support. In the final section something is said of the short-comings of standard Bayesian confirmation theories that are highlighted by Whewellian consilience. (shrink)
I propose a measure of dependence that relates a set of items of evidence to an hypothesis H and to H's negation. I dub this measure relative consilience and propose a method for using it as a correction factor for dependence among items of evidence. Using RC, I examine collusion and testimonial independence, the value of diverse evidence, and the strengthening of otherwise weak or non-existent cases. RC provides a valuable tool for formal epistemologists interested in analyzing cumulative case (...) arguments. (shrink)
Forster presented some interesting examples having to do with distinguishing the direction of causal influence between two variables, which he argued are counterexamples to the likelihood theory of evidence. In this article, we refute Forster’s arguments by carefully examining one of the alleged counterexamples. We argue that the example is not convincing as it relies on dubious intuitions that likelihoodists have forcefully criticized. More important, we show that contrary to Forster’s contention, the consilience-based methodology he favored is accountable within (...) the framework of the likelihood theory of evidence. (shrink)
This paper defines in a formal and computational way the notion of consilience, a term introduced by Whewell in 1847 for the evaluation of scientific theories. Informally, as has been used to date, a model or theory is consilient if it is predictive, explanatory and unifies the evide-nce. Centred in a constructive framework, where new terms can be intro-duced, we essay a formalisation of the idea of unification based on the avoidance of sepa-ration. However, it is soon manifest that (...) this classical approach is vulnerable to the introduction of fantastic concepts to unify disparate sub-theories. Our second approach is constructed by using a detailed evaluation of the relationship between the theory and the evid-ence by means of reinforcement propagation. With the use of reinfor-cement, fantastic concepts can be better detected and the role of con-silience for theory construction and revision can be specialised for dif-ferent inference mechanisms like explanatory induction, abduction, deduc-tion and analogy. (shrink)
This volume takes a new approach to bridging the cultures of science and the humanities. The editors and contributors formulate how to develop a new shared framework of consilience beyond mere interdisciplinarity, in a way that both sides can accept.
This article describes research pursued by members of the McDonnell Collaborative on Causal Learning. A number of members independently converged on a similar idea: one of the central functions served by claims of actual causation is to highlight patterns of dependence that are highly portable into novel contexts. I describe in detail how this idea emerged in my own work and also in that of the psychologist Tania Lombrozo. In addition, I use the occasion to reflect on the nature of (...) interdisciplinary collaboration in general and on the interaction between philosophy and psychology in particular. (shrink)
The meaning of sustainability is the subject of intense debate among environmental and resource economists. Perhaps no other issue separates more clearly the traditional economic view from the views of most natural scientists. The debate currently focuses on the substitutability between the economy and the environment or between “natural capital” and “manufactured capital”—a debate captured in terms of weak versus strong sustainability. In this article, we examine the various interpretations of these concepts. We conclude that natural science and economic perspectives (...) on sustainability are inconsistent. The market-based Hartwick-Solow “weak sustainability” approach is far removed from both the ecosystem-based “Holling sustainability” and the “strong sustainability” approach of Daly and others. Each of these sustainability criteria implies a specific valuation approach, and thus an ethical position, to support monetary indicators of sustainability such as a green or sustainable Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The conflict between “weak sustainability” and “strong sustainability” is more evident in the context of centralized than decentralized decision making. In particular, firms selling “services” instead of material goods and regarding the latter as “capital” leads to decisions more or less consistent with either type of sustainability. Finally, we discuss the implications of global sustainability for such open systems as regions and countries. Open systems have not been dealt with systematically for any of the sustainability criteria. (shrink)
This paper considers clinical psychoanalysis together with developmental psychology (particularly attachment theory), evolution, and neuroscience in the context a Bayesian account of confirmation and disconfrimation. -/- In it I argue that these converging sources of support indicate that the combination of relatively low predictive power and broad explanatory scope that characterise the theories of both Freud and Darwin suggest that Freud's theory, like Darwin's, may strike deeply into natural phenomena. -/- The same argument, however, suggests that conclusive confirmation for Freudian (...) hypotheses, as in the case of Darwin's, will come from outside the original domain of explanation sketched out by Freud. As in Darwin's case conclusive confirmation came from understanding the physical mechanisms or reproduction, in Freud's case it will come from understanding the neural mechanisms that realise the phenomena described in psychoanalysis. (shrink)
. E. O. Wilson writes that the “choice between transcendentalism and empiricism” is this century's “version of the struggle for men's soul” . The transcendentalist argues for theism—that there is a God, a creator of the world. The empiricist instead makes the point that the notion of God, including morality and ethics, are adaptive structures of human evolution. Before entering the debate of the transcendentalist/empiricist controversy I analyze how things exist and suggest that all that is exists as united diversity, (...) as identity in difference. I argue that oneness by itself is intangible because wholes are concrete only through their tangible parts. I briefly discuss this understanding of existence in the realm of art to show that transcendence and immanence are not mutually exclusive but constitute each other. I conclude that existence, the hypostasis of unity in diversity, might be seen as a gift from absolute existence. In this view, the world might reveal itself as a gift that reflects the trinitarian existence of the Giver. (shrink)
Data from magnetic resonance imaging, autopsy, endocranial measurements, and other techniques show that: brain size correlates 0.40 with cognitive ability; average brain size varies by race; and average cognitive ability varies by race. These results are as replicable as one will find in the social and behavioral sciences. They pose serious problems for Rose 's claim that reductionistic science is inadequate, inefficient, and/or unproductive.
Evolutionary psychologists often try to “bring together” biology and psychology by making predictions about what specific psychological mechanisms exist from theories about what patterns of behaviour would have been adaptive in the EEA for humans. This paper shows that one of the deepest methodological generalities in evolutionary biology—that proximate explanations and ultimate explanations stand in a many-to-many relation—entails that this inferential strategy is unsound. Ultimate explanations almost never entail the truth of any particular proximate hypothesis. But of course it does (...) not follow that there are no other ways of “bringing together” biology and psychology. Accordingly, this paper explores one other strategy for doing just that, the pursuit of a very specific kind of consilience. However, I argue that inferences reflecting the pursuit of this kind of consilience with the best available theories in contemporary evolutionary biology indicate that psychologists should have a preference for explanations of adaptive behavior in humans that refer to learning and other similarly malleable psychological mechanisms—and not modules or instincts or any other kind of relatively innate and relatively non-malleable psychological mechanism. (shrink)
Sociobiology is a grand narrative of evolutionary biology on which to build unified knowledge. Consilience is a metaphorical representation of that narrative. I take up the same metaphor but apply it differently. I evoke the image of jumping together, not on solid ground but on the strong, flexible canvas sheet of a trampoline, on which natural sciences, social sciences, and the humanities jump together. This image overlaps with the traditional East Asian way of understanding—that is, the “Heaven-Earth-Person Triad.” Using (...) recent insights from cognitive science—metaphor, embodiment, and conceptual blending—I propose the alternative way of “bio-socio-humanities” to understand and experience the world. (shrink)
Approaching science by considering the epistemological virtues which scientists see as constitutive of good science, and the way these virtues trade-off against one another, makes it possible to capture action that may be lost by approaches which focus on either the theoretical or institutional level. Following Wimsatt (1984) I use the notion of heuristics and biases to help explore a case study from the history of biology. Early in the 20th century, mutation theorists and natural historians fought over the role (...) that isolation plays in evolution. This debate was principally about whether replication was the central scientific virtue (and hence the ultimate goal of science to replace non-experimental evidence with experimental evidence) or whether consilience of inductions was the central virtue (and hence, as many kinds of evidence as possible should be pursued). (shrink)
Whenever we try to make an inventory of humankind’s store of knowledge, we stumble into an ongoing battle between what CP Snow called ‘the two cultures’. On one side are the humanities, on the other are the sciences (natural and physical), with social science and philosophy caught somewhere in the middle. This is more than a turf dispute among academics. It strikes at the core of what we mean by human knowledge.
The recent global economic collapse brings new calls for reform and change as well as a re-examination of the ethical foundations underpining it. Most professors as well as students remain profoundly unhappy with the Business Curricula. The curricula appear to swing between technological training and academic theory. There is little genuine focus on the central issue of the problem: the students’ and faculty’s assumptive world which drives the selection of the materials chosen for presentation as well as the decision-making process. (...) In the pragmatic quest to achieve status within academe, business schools appear to have forgotten that their subject matter is not one cognate domain but a mixture of several areas including mathematics, economics, anthropology, sociology, psychology, logic and planning. Course structures must be redesigned as consilient. That is, each course contains in it the links to other courses and is not expected to be complete in themselves; the new structures proposed are no longer under the direct control of one instructor but each course is under the control of a committee. This creates a linkage between courses that together from a linked chain of knowledge where the strength of the curriculum is tied to the consilient strength of the courses. The result is an organic and developmental model for teaching and learning with a strong ethical foundation as well as developed moral links to effective decision making. (shrink)
Despite the upsurge of research on disgust, the implications of this research for the investigation of cultural pollution beliefs has yet to be adequately explored. In particular, the sensitivity of both disgust and pollution to a common set of elicitors suggests a common psychological basis, though several obstacles have prevented an integrative account, including methodological differences between the relevant disciplines. Employing a conciliatory framework that embraces both naturalistic and humanistic levels of explanation, this article examines the dynamic reciprocal process by (...) which contamination/contagion appraisals in individuals serve to shape—and are in turn shaped by—culture-specific pollution beliefs. This complex interrelationship is illustrated by examining ancient Near Eastern and modern ethnographic documentation of pollution beliefs, highlighting the underappreciated function of these pollution beliefs as folk theories for the spread of infectious disease. By evaluating how pollution beliefs shape contamination appraisals in individuals, it will be argued that cultural inheritance has played a much larger role in guiding disease avoidance behavior than has been previously recognized. (shrink)
Scientific consensus is widely deferred to in public debates as a social indicator of the existence of knowledge. However, it is far from clear that such deference to consensus is always justified. The existence of agreement in a community of researchers is a contingent fact, and researchers may reach a consensus for all kinds of reasons, such as fighting a common foe or sharing a common bias. Scientific consensus, by itself, does not necessarily indicate the existence of shared knowledge among (...) the members of the consensus community. I address the question of under what conditions it is likely that a consensus is in fact knowledge based. I argue that a consensus is likely to be knowledge based when knowledge is the best explanation of the consensus, and I identify three conditions—social calibration, apparent consilience of evidence, and social diversity, for knowledge being the best explanation of a consensus. (shrink)
Recent work on inference to the best explanation has come to an impasse regarding the proper way to coordinate the theoretical virtues in explanatory inference with probabilistic confirmation theory, and in particular with aspects of Bayes's Theorem. I argue that the theoretical virtues are best conceived heuristically and that such a conception gives us the resources to explicate the virtues in terms of ceteris paribus theorems. Contrary to some Bayesians, this is not equivalent to identifying the virtues with likelihoods or (...) priors per se; the virtues may be more accessible epistemically than likelihoods or priors. I then prove a ceteris paribus theorem regarding theoretical consilience, use it to correct a recent application of Reichenbach's common cause principle, and apply it to a test case of scientific reasoning. Explanation and confirmation The heuristic conception of theoretical virtues Abduction and the accessibility of explanatory power Evidential and theoretical consilience A test case: gravitational lensing Conclusion Thus natural science appears completely to lose from sight the large and general questions; but all the more splendid is the success when, groping in the thicket of special questions, we suddenly find a small opening that allows a hitherto undreamt of outlook on the whole. (L. Boltzmann, Theoretical Physics and Philosophical Problems). (shrink)
Predictivists use the no miracle argument to argue that “novel” predictions are decisive evidence for theories, while mere accommodation of “old” data cannot confirm to a significant degree. But deductivists claim that since confirmation is a logical theory-data relationship, predicted data cannot confirm more than merely deduced data, and cite historical cases in which known data confirmed theories quite strongly. On the other hand, the advantage of prediction over accommodation is needed by scientific realists to resist Laudan’s criticisms of the (...) no miracle argument. So, if the deductivists are right, the most powerful argument for realism collapses. There seems to be an inescapable contradiction between these prima facie plausible arguments of predictivists and deductivists; but this puzzle can be solved by understanding what exactly counts as novelty, if novel predictions must support the no miracle argument, i.e., if they must be explainable only by the truth of theories. Taking my cues from the use-novelty tradition, I argue that (1) the predicted data must not be used essentially in building the theory or choosing the auxiliary assumptions. This is possible if the theory and its auxiliary assumptions are plausible independently of the predicted data, and I analyze the consequences of this requirement in terms of best explanation of diverse bodies of data. Moreover, the predicted data must be (2) a priori improbable, and (3) heterogeneous to the essentially used data. My proposed notion of novelty, therefore, is not historical, but functional. Hence, deductivists are right that confirmation is independent of time and of historical contingencies such as if the theorist knew a datum, used it, or intended to accommodate it. Predictivists, however, are right that not all consequences confirm equally, and confirmation is not purely a logical theory-data relation, as it crucially involves background epistemic conditions and the notion of best explanation. Conditions (1)–(3) make the difference between prediction and accommodation, and account for the confirming power of theoretical virtues such as non ad-hocness, non-fudging, non-overfitting, independence and consilience. I thus show that functional novelty (a) avoids the deductivist objections to predictivism, (b) is a gradual notion, in accordance with the common intuition that confirmation comes in degrees, and (c) supports the no miracle argument, so vindicating scientific realism. (shrink)
The representation theorems of expected utility theory show that having certain types of preferences is both necessary and sufficient for being representable as having subjective probabilities. However, unless the expected utility framework is simply assumed, such preferences are also consistent with being representable as having degrees of belief that do not obey the laws of probability. This fact shows that being representable as having subjective probabilities is not necessarily the same as having subjective probabilities. Probabilism can be defended on the (...) basis of the representation theorems only if attributions of degrees of belief are understood either antirealistically or purely qualitatively, or if the representation theorems are supplemented by arguments based on other considerations (simplicity, consilience, and so on) that single out the representation of a person as having subjective probabilities as the only true representation of the mental state of any person whose preferences conform to the axioms of expected utility theory. (shrink)
This paper argues that recent work in the 'free energy' program in neuroscience enables us better to understand both consciousness and the Freudian unconscious, including the role of the superego and the id. This work also accords with research in developmental psychology (particularly attachment theory) and with evolutionary considerations bearing on emotional conflict. This argument is carried forward in various ways in the work that follows, including 'Understanding and Healing', 'The Significance of Consilience', 'Psychoanalysis, Philosophical Issues', and 'Kantian Neuroscience (...) and Radical Interpretation', and the discussion of conscious extends that of both 'The Problem of Consciousness and the Innerness of the Mind' and 'Psychoanalysis, Metaphor, and the Concept of Mind'. (shrink)
This discussion paper responds to two recent articles in Biology and Philosophy that raise similar objections to cultural attraction theory, a research trend in cultural evolution putting special emphasis on the fact that human minds create and transform their culture. Both papers are sympathetic to this idea, yet both also regret a lack of consilience with Boyd, Richerson and Henrich’s models of cultural evolution. I explain why cultural attraction theorists propose a different view on three points of concern for (...) our critics. I start by detailing the claim that cultural transmission relies not chiefly on imitation or teaching, but on cognitive mechanisms like argumentation, ostensive communication, or selective trust, whose evolved or habitual function may not be the faithful reproduction of ideas or behaviours. Second, I explain why the distinction between context biases and content biases might not always be the best way to capture the interactions between culture and cognition. Lastly, I show that cultural attraction models cannot be reduced to a model of guided variation, which posits a clear separation between individual and social learning processes. With cultural attraction, the same cognitive mechanisms underlie both innovation and the preservation of traditions. (shrink)
What are biological species? Aristotelians and Lockeans agree that they are natural kinds; but, evolutionary theory shows that neither traditional philosophical approach is truly adequate. Recently, Michael Ghiselin and David Hull have argued that species are individuals. This claim is shown to be against the spirit of much modern biology. It is concluded that species are natural kinds of a sort, and that any 'objectivity' they possess comes from their being at the focus of a consilience of inductions.
It has been argued recently that some basic emotions should be considered natural kinds. This is different from the question whether as a class emotions form a natural kind; that is, whether emotion is a natural kind. The consensus on that issue appears to be negative. I argue that this pessimism is unwarranted and that there are in fact good reasons for entertaining the hypothesis that emotion is a natural kind. I interpret this to mean that there exists a distinct (...) natural class of organisms whose behavior and development are governed by emotion. These are emoters. Two arguments for the natural kind status of emotion are considered. Both converge on the existence of emotion as a distinct natural domain governed by its own laws and regularities. There are then some reasons for being optimistic about the prospects for consilience in emotion theory. 1 The mantra 2 Griffiths on emotions as natural kinds 3 Panksepp on emotions as natural kinds 4 Emotion as a neurobiological kind 5 Emotion as a psychological kind 6 Response to the mantra 7 Unification or fragmentation? 8 Concluding remarks. (shrink)
Ron Giere's recent book Scientific Perspectivism sets out an account of science that attempts to forge a via media between two popular extremes: absolutist, objectivist realism on the one hand, and social constructivism or skeptical anti-realism on the other. The key for Giere is to treat both scientific observation and scientific theories as perspectives, which are limited, partial, contingent, context-, agent- and purpose-dependent, and pluralism-friendly, while nonetheless world-oriented and modestly realist. Giere's perspectivism bears significant similarly to early writings by Paul (...) Feyerabend and John Dewey. Comparing these to Giere's work not only uncovers a consilience of ideas, but also can help to fill out Giere's account in places where it is under-developed, as well as helping us understand the work of these earlier authors and their continuing relevance to contemporary concerns in philosophy of science. (shrink)