955 research outputs found

    The ontology of causal process theories

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    There is a widespread belief that the so-called process theories of causation developed by Wesley Salmon and Phil Dowe have given us an original account of what causation really is. In this paper, I show that this is a misconception. The notion of "causal process" does not offer us a new ontological account of causation. I make this argument by explicating the implicit ontological commitments in Salmon and Dowe's theories. From this, it is clear that Salmon's Mark Transmission Theory collapses to a counterfactual theory of causation, while the Conserved Quantity Theory collapses to David Fair's phsyicalist reduction of causation

    Does Scientific Progress Consist in Increasing Knowledge or Understanding?

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    Bird argues that scientific progress consists in increasing knowledge. Dellsén objects that increasing knowledge is neither necessary nor sufficient for scientific progress, and argues that scientific progress rather consists in increasing understanding. Dellsén also contends that unlike Bird’s view, his view can account for the scientific practices of using idealizations and of choosing simple theories over complex ones. I argue that Dellsén’s criticisms against Bird’s view fail, and that increasing understanding cannot account for scientific progress, if acceptance, as opposed to belief, is required for scientific understanding

    Ego-Splitting and the Transcendental Subject. Kant’s Original Insight and Husserl’s Reappraisal

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    In this paper, I contend that there are at least two essential traits that commonly define being an I: self-identity and self-consciousness. I argue that they bear quite an odd relation to each other in the sense that self-consciousness seems to jeopardize self-identity. My main concern is to elucidate this issue within the range of the transcendental philosophies of Immanuel Kant and Edmund Husserl. In the first section, I shall briefly consider Kant’s own rendition of the problem of the Egosplitting. My reading of the Kantian texts reveals that Kant himself was aware of this phenomenon but eventually deems it an unexplainable fact. The second part of the paper tackles the same problematic from the standpoint of Husserlian phenomenology. What Husserl’s extensive analyses on this topic bring to light is that the phenomenon of the Ego-splitting constitutes the bedrock not only of his thought but also of every philosophy that works within the framework of transcendental thinking

    Explanation in mathematical conversations:An empirical investigation

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    Analysis of online mathematics forums can help reveal how explanation is used by mathematicians; we contend that this use of explanation may help to provide an informal conceptualization of simplicity. We extracted six conjectures from recent philosophical work on the occurrence and characteristics of explanation in mathematics. We then tested these conjectures against a corpus derived from online mathematical discussions. To this end, we employed two techniques, one based on indicator terms, the other on a random sample of comments lacking such indicators. Our findings suggest that explanation is widespread in mathematical practice and that it occurs not only in proofs but also in other mathematical contexts. Our work also provides further evidence for the utility of empirical methods in addressing philosophical problems

    In Defense of the Epistemic Imperative

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    Sample (2015) argues that scientists ought not to believe that their theories are true because they cannot fulfill the epistemic obligation to take the diachronic perspective on their theories. I reply that Sample’s argument imposes an inordinately heavy epistemic obligation on scientists, and that it spells doom not only for scientific theories but also for observational beliefs and philosophical ideas that Samples endorses. I also delineate what I take to be a reasonable epistemic obligation for scientists. In sum, philosophers ought to impose on scientists only an epistemic standard that they are willing to impose on themselves

    Mechanistic unity of the predictive mind

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    It is often recognized that cognitive science employs a diverse explanatory toolkit. It has also been argued that cognitive scientists should embrace this explanatory diversity rather than pursue search for some grand unificatory framework or theory. This pluralist stance dovetails with the mechanistic view of cognitive-scientific explanation. However, one recently proposed theory – based on an idea that the brain is a predictive engine – opposes the spirit of pluralism by unapologetically wearing unificatory ambitions on its sleeves. In this paper, my aim is to investigate those pretentions to elucidate what sort of unification is on offer. I challenge the idea that explanatory unification of cognitive science follows from the Free Energy Principle. I claim that if the predictive story is to provide an explanatory unification, it is rather by proposing that many distinct cognitive mechanisms fall under the same functional schema that pertains to prediction error minimization. Seen this way, the brain is not simply a predictive mechanism – it is a collection of predictive mechanisms. I also pursue a more general aim of investigating the value of unificatory power for mechanistic explanations. I argue that even though unification is not an absolute evaluative criterion for mechanistic explanations, it may play an epistemic role in evaluating the credibility of an explanation relative to its direct competitors

    Social Effects in Science: Modelling Agents for a Better Scientific Practice

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    Science is a fundamental human activity and we trust its results because it has several error-correcting mechanisms. Its is subject to experimental tests that are replicated by independent parts. Given the huge amount of information available, scientists have to rely on the reports of others. This makes it possible for social effects to influence the scientific community. Here, an Opinion Dynamics agent model is proposed to describe this situation. The influence of Nature through experiments is described as an external field that acts on the experimental agents. We will see that the retirement of old scientists can be fundamental in the acceptance of a new theory. We will also investigate the interplay between social influence and observations. This will allow us to gain insight in the problem of when social effects can have negligible effects in the conclusions of a scientific community and when we should worry about them.Comment: 14 pages, 5 figure

    The art of being human : a project for general philosophy of science

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    Throughout the medieval and modern periods, in various sacred and secular guises, the unification of all forms of knowledge under the rubric of ‘science’ has been taken as the prerogative of humanity as a species. However, as our sense of species privilege has been called increasingly into question, so too has the very salience of ‘humanity’ and ‘science’ as general categories, let alone ones that might bear some essential relationship to each other. After showing how the ascendant Stanford School in the philosophy of science has contributed to this joint demystification of ‘humanity’ and ‘science’, I proceed on a more positive note to a conceptual framework for making sense of science as the art of being human. My understanding of ‘science’ is indebted to the red thread that runs from Christian theology through the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment to the Humboldtian revival of the university as the site for the synthesis of knowledge as the culmination of self-development. Especially salient to this idea is science‘s epistemic capacity to manage modality (i.e. to determine the conditions under which possibilities can be actualised) and its political capacity to organize humanity into projects of universal concern. However, the challenge facing such an ideal in the twentyfirst century is that the predicate ‘human’ may be projected in three quite distinct ways, governed by what I call ‘ecological’, ‘biomedical’ and ‘cybernetic’ interests. Which one of these future humanities would claim today’s humans as proper ancestors and could these futures co-habit the same world thus become two important questions that general philosophy of science will need to address in the coming years

    Justifying the Special Theory of Relativity with Unconceived Methods

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    Many realists argue that present scientific theories will not follow the fate of past scientific theories because the former are more successful than the latter. Critics object that realists need to show that present theories have reached the level of success that warrants their truth. I reply that the special theory of relativity has been repeatedly reinforced by unconceived scientific methods, so it will be reinforced by infinitely many unconceived scientific methods. This argument for the special theory of relativity overcomes the critics’ objection, and has advantages over the no-miracle argument and the selective induction for it