Science & Logic

Beyond Concepts

This post is by Ruth Millikan. Ruth Garrett Millikan is Distinguished Professor Emerita at the University of Connecticut. She is a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Winner of the 2017 Researcher Prize for Systematic Philosophy. I am a retired professor of philosophy from the University of Connecticut with special interests in thought and language, the ontological structures of the world that support thought and language and the kinds of selection ---- genetic, learning, cultural ---- responsible for their evolution and development.Beyond Concepts weaves together themes from natural ontology and from the philosophies of mind, language and information. The sprawling topic is Kant's how is knowledge possible? but viewed from a contemporary naturalist standpoint. The assumption is that we, along with the other animals, are evolved creatures that use cognition as a guide in dealing with the natural world, and that the natural world is, roughly, as natural science has tried to describe it. Very unlike Kant, then, the book begins with a discussion of what the world is like prior to cognition, only later developing theories about the nature of cognition within that world.Central to the view of cognition is the introduction of “unicepts” and “unitrackers” which, together, serve to replace traditional concepts. They are responsible for “tracking” items perceived in different ways and at different times, for recognizing what is the same again as the same again and for storing information thus collected in a way that marks it clearly as information about the... -

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Is evolutionary science due for a major overhaul – or is talk of ‘revolution’ misguided?

Kevin Laland in Aeon: When researchers at Emory University in Atlanta trained mice to fear the smell of almonds (by pairing it with electric shocks), they found, to their consternation, that both the children and grandchildren of these mice were spontaneously afraid of the same smell. That is not supposed to happen. Generations of schoolchildren have been taught that the inheritance of acquired characteristics is impossible. A mouse should not be born with something its parents have learned during their lifetimes, any more than a mouse that loses its tail in an accident should give birth to tailless mice. If you are not a biologist, you’d be forgiven for being confused about the state of evolutionary science. Modern evolutionary biology dates back to a synthesis... -

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Platonism in the Philosophy of Mathematics

[Revised entry by Øystein Linnebo on January 18, 2018. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] Platonism about mathematics (or mathematical platonism) is the metaphysical view that there are abstract mathematical objects whose existence is independent of us and our language, thought, and practices. Just as electrons and planets exist independently... -

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Axiomatic Theories of Truth

[Revised entry by Volker Halbach and Graham E. Leigh on January 18, 2018. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] An axiomatic theory of truth is a deductive theory of truth as a primitive undefined predicate. Because of the liar and other paradoxes, the axioms and rules have to be chosen carefully... -

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Is evolutionary science due for a major overhaul – or is talk of ‘revolution’ misguided? Kevin Laland in Aeon: When researchers at Emory University in Atlanta trained mice to fear the smell of almonds (by pairing it with electric shocks), they found, to their consternation, that both the children and grandchildren of these mice were spontaneously afraid of the same smell. That is not supposed to happen. Generations of schoolchildren have been taught that the inheritance of acquired characteristics is impossible. A mouse should not be born with something its parents... 3 Quarks Daily -


Platonism in the Philosophy of Mathematics [Revised entry by Øystein Linnebo on January 18, 2018. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] Platonism about mathematics (or mathematical platonism) is the metaphysical view that there are abstract mathematical objects whose existence is independent of us and our language, thought, and practices. Just as electrons and planets exist independently of us, so do numbers and sets. And just as statements about electrons and planets are made true or false by the objects with which... Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy -


Axiomatic Theories of Truth [Revised entry by Volker Halbach and Graham E. Leigh on January 18, 2018. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] An axiomatic theory of truth is a deductive theory of truth as a primitive undefined predicate. Because of the liar and other paradoxes, the axioms and rules have to be chosen carefully in order to avoid inconsistency. Many axiom systems for the truth predicate have been discussed in the literature and their respective properties been analysed. Several... Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy -


Electric Eels Inspire a New Type of Battery Emily Matchar in Smithsonian: Electric eels, which slither along the muddy bottoms of ponds and streams in the Amazon and Orinoco river basins of South America, can cause a shock powerful enough to knock a horse off its feet. Their power comes from cells called electrocytes that discharge when the eel is hunting or feels threatened. Now, researchers are taking inspiration from these eels (not technically eels, as a matter of fact, but a type of fish)... 3 Quarks Daily -


Beyond Concepts This post is by Ruth Millikan. Ruth Garrett Millikan is Distinguished Professor Emerita at the University of Connecticut. She is a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Winner of the 2017 Researcher Prize for Systematic Philosophy. I am a retired professor of philosophy from the University of Connecticut with special interests in thought and language, the ontological structures of the world that support thought and language and the kinds of selection... Imperfect Cognitions -


After the End of the World: 30 000 People Can't Be Wrong If you're anywhere near Barcelona do go to the CCCB and see After the End of the World, an exhibition I helped to design with five rooms designed by me with mini lectures about time, hyperobjects, waiting...things to do with ecological awareness. They just passed thirty thousand visitors! Ecology Without Nature -


Next Up: London and Iceland So London is for one of the Being Ecological launch events, at the LRB bookshop. They told me they were sold out weeks ago but you might get lucky...Then Reykjavik at the very beginning of February. Ecology Without Nature -


Arbitrariness, probability and infinitesimals A well-known objection to replacing the zero probability of some events—such as getting heads infinitely many times in a row—with an infinitesimal is arbitrariness. Infinitesimals are usually taken to be hyperreals and there are infinitely many hyperreal extensions of the reals. This version of the arbitrariness has an objection. There are extensions of the reals that one can unambiguously define. Three examples: (1) the surreals, (2) formal Laurent series and (3) the Kanovei-Shelah model. But... Alexander Pruss -


Brain Cells Share Information With Virus-Like Capsules Ed Yong in The Atlantic: When Jason Shepherd first saw the structures under a microscope, he thought they looked like viruses. The problem was: he wasn’t studying viruses. Shepherd studies a gene called Arc which is active in neurons, and plays a vital role in the brain. A mouse that’s born without Arc can’t learn or form new long-term memories. If it finds some cheese in a maze, it will have completely forgotten the right... 3 Quarks Daily -


Isabelle Stengers on William James’ Pragmatism https://www.radicalphilosophy.com/wp-content/files_mf/rp157_article1_williamjames_stengers.pdf Synthetic Zero -


Free will, randomness and functionalism Plausibly, there is some function from the strengths of my motivations (reasons, desires, etc.) to my chances of decision, so that I am more likely to choose that towards which I am more strongly motivated. Now imagine a machine I can plug my brain into such that when I am deliberating between options A and B, the machine measures the strengths of my motivations, applies my strengths-to-chances function, randomly selects between A and B in... Alexander Pruss -


Why dolphins are deep thinkers Anuschka de Rohan in The Guardian: At the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Mississippi, Kelly the dolphin has built up quite a reputation. All the dolphins at the institute are trained to hold onto any litter that falls into their pools until they see a trainer, when they can trade the litter for fish. In this way, the dolphins help to keep their pools clean. Kelly has taken this task one step further. When... 3 Quarks Daily -


Sociobiology [Revised entry by Catherine Driscoll on January 16, 2018. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] The term 'sociobiology' was introduced in E. O. Wilson's Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (1975) as the "systematic study of the biological basis of all social behavior" (Wilson, 1975, 4). Wilson seems to intend "the biological basis of behavior" to refer to the social and ecological causes driving the evolution of behavior in animal populations, rather than the neurological or psychological causes... Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy -


Timehack If you just saw a post about game design lineages... that shouldn't have gone up until tomorrow. Temporal powers asserted! Only a Game -


Structures of the Mind Yesterday, I suggested that we need a theory of attention that gives attention a central place in the mind and serves as a unified framework that integrates different approaches to attention, both in philosophy and in the empirical sciences. Today, I will sketch the priority structure framework and give some reasons why we should accept it. I will first introduce the framework with a metaphor. Consider the various elements that characterize your current state of... Brains Blog -


The Baron of Bulawayo I notice that Marshall’s website has been revamped. Browsing through I rediscovered some paintings I hadn’t given a close enough look in the prior iteration of the website. Merle, Marshall’s sister, very kindly allowed me to use one of his paintings here. My brief thoughts on Marshall from a few years back here. aestheticsArtbulawayoMarshall Baronmusicpainting Man Without Qualities -


If computers can be free, compatibilism is true In this post I want to argue for this: If a computer can non-accidentally have free will, compatibilism is true. Compatibilism here is the thesis that free will and determinism can both obtain. My interest in (1) is that I think the compatibilism is false, and hence I conclude from (1) that computers cannot non-accidentally have free will. But one could also use (1) as an argument for compatibilism. Here’s the argument for (1). Assume... Alexander Pruss -


Friedrich Kittler on the logic of the machines. [W]e are now living in a world where you can say, at the very least, that computers have taken control, just as Turing predicted. And although in that wonderful year of 1936, two American mathematicians proposed effectively the same theory, with calculable numbers and functions, Turing, in England, was the only one who specified a machine for it. The machine has appointed us and the machine, not... Enowning -


Now Featured We are grateful to Sebastian Watzl for blogging this week on Structuring Mind: The Nature of Attention and How it Shapes Consciousness (Oxford, 2017). To view all his posts on a single page, please click here. Brains Blog -


Monday Poem Whiplash and Mercies silence thick as her stewsfilled my grandmother’s housebut for the cars on 15 on wet nightsclose, hissing toward Picatinnyblack Buicks, big black Packardsheavy as her lifewide whitewalls spinningdown two-lane asphaltbefore the interstatesliced throughtable in her living rooma glut of snaps of Jim and JackHoward Frank Velma RuthGladys Leo Leroy Patthe lot of them by-gonein black & whitemugging hugging beamingbeingyoung as they’d beenin their taste of timevitality a temporal jokesmooth skin taut as cloudless skyon a blue... 3 Quarks Daily -