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Philosophy of Science

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Shared Identities in Physics, Philosophy, and Literature

The separateness and connection of individuals is perhaps the central question of human life: What, exactly, is my individuality? To what degree is it unique? To what degree can it be shared, and how? To the many philosophical and literary speculations about these topics over time, modern science has added the curious twist of quantum theory, which requires that the elementary particles of which everything consists have no individuality at all. All aspects of chemistry depend on this lack of individuality, as do many branches of physics. From where, then, does our individuality come?

In Seeing Double, Peter Pesic invites readers to explore this intriguing set of questions. He draws on literary and historical examples that open the mind (from Homer to Martin Guerre to Kafka), philosophical analyses that have helped to make our thinking and speech more precise, and scientific work that has enabled us to characterize the phenomena of nature. Though he does not try to be all-inclusive, Pesic presents a broad range of ideas, building toward a specific point of view: that the crux of modern quantum theory is its clash with our ordinary concept of individuality. This represents a departure from the usual understanding of quantum theory. Pesic argues that what is bizarre about quantum theory becomes more intelligible as we reconsider what we mean by individuality and identity in ordinary experience. In turn, quantum identity opens a new perspective on us.

Developmental Systems and Evolution

The nature/nurture debate is not dead. Dichotomous views of development still underlie many fundamental debates in the biological and social sciences. Developmental systems theory (DST) offers a new conceptual framework with which to resolve such debates. DST views ontogeny as contingent cycles of interaction among a varied set of developmental resources, no one of which controls the process. These factors include DNA, cellular and organismic structure, and social and ecological interactions. DST has excited interest from a wide range of researchers, from molecular biologists to anthropologists, because of its ability to integrate evolutionary theory and other disciplines without falling into traditional oppositions.

The book provides historical background to DST, recent theoretical findings on the mechanisms of heredity, applications of the DST framework to behavioral development, implications of DST for the philosophy of biology, and critical reactions to DST.

Connectionism, Concepts, and Representational Change

Connectionist approaches, Andy Clark argues, are driving cognitive science toward a radical reconception of its explanatory endeavor. At the heart of this reconception lies a shift toward a new and more deeply developmental vision of the mind - a vision that has important implications for the philosophical and psychological understanding of the nature of concepts, of mental causation, and of representational change.

Combining philosophical argument, empirical results, and interdisciplinary speculations, Clark charts a fundamental shift from a static, inner-code-oriented conception of the subject matter of cognitive science to a more dynamic, developmentally rich, process-oriented view. Clark argues that this shift makes itself felt in two main ways. First, structured representations are seen as the products of temporally extended cognitive activity and not as the representational bedrock (an innate symbol system or language of thought) upon which all learning is based. Second, the relation between thoughts (as described by folk psychology) and inner computational states is loosened as a result of the fragmented and distributed nature of the connectionist representation of concepts.

Other issues Clark raises include the nature of innate knowledge, the conceptual commitments of folk psychology, and the use and abuse of higher-level analyses of connectionist networks.

One influential view of science focuses on the credibility that scientists attach to alternative theories and on the evolution of these credibilities under the impact of data. Interpreting credibility as probability leads to the Bayesian analysis of inquiry, which has helped us to understand diverse aspects of scientific practice. Eric Martin and Daniel N. Osherson take as their starting point a different set of intuitions about the variables to be retained in a model of inquiry. They present a theory of inductive logic that is built from the tools of logic and model theory. Their aim is to extend the mathematics of Formal Learning Theory to a more general setting and to provide a more accurate image of empirical inquiry. In particular, their theory integrates recent ideas in the theory of rational belief change. The formal results of their study illuminate aspects of scientific inquiry that are not covered by the Bayesian approach.

Exercises appear throughout the text; solutions are provided in an appendix.

Theories of Spatial Perception from Kant to Helmholtz

Gary Hatfield examines theories of spatial perception from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century and provides a detailed analysis of the works of Kant and Helmholtz, who adopted opposing stances on whether central questions about spatial perception were amenable to natural-scientific treatment. At stake were the proper understanding of the relationships among sensation, perception, and experience, and the proper methodological framework for investigating the mental activities of judgment, understanding, and reason issues which remain at the core of philosophical psychology and cognitive science.

Hatfield presents these important issues as living philosophies of science that shape and are shaped by actual research programs, creating a complex and fascinating picture of the entire nineteenth-century battle between nativism and empiricism. His examination of Helmholtz's work in physiological optics and epistemology is a tour de force.

Gary Hatfield is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania.

Complexity and Change in Biology

Development and Evolution surveys and illuminates the key themes of rapidly changing fields and areas of controversy that are redefining the theory and philosophy of biology. It continues Stanley Salthe's investigation of evolutionary theory, begun in his influential book Evolving Hierarchical Systems, while negating the implicit philosophical mechanisms of much of that work. Here Salthe attempts to reinitiate a theory of biology from the perspective of development rather than from that of evolution, recognizing the applicability of general systems thinking to biological and social phenomena and pointing toward a non-Darwinian and even a postmodern biology.

Salthe's intent is nothing less than to provide, with this alternative paradigm, a position from which the deconstruction of the Bacononian/Cartesian/Newtonian/Darwinian/Comptian tradition becomes possible, while at the same time suggesting in its place an organic view predicated upon Aristotelian and Hegelian antecedents. In the face of complexity, we must alter our view of the universe as inherently ordered and predictable; order develops, but at great cost.

Explorating of the nature of change in a complex world, Salthe brings together such disparate areas as hierarchy theory, information theory, and semiotics in illuminating ways as he seeks a mode of answering questions as to the nature of complexity and as to how we might derive information from the interactions of the parts of a contextualized developing system.

Stanley N. Salthe, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Biology at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, is a Visiting Scientist in Biological Sciences at Binghamton University.

A Computer Model

The psychologist William James observed that "a native talent for perceiving analogies is ... the leading fact in genius of every order." The centrality and the ubiquity of analogy in creative thought have been noted again and again by scientists, artists, and writers, and understanding and modeling analogical thought have emerged as two of the most important challenges for cognitive science.

Analogy-Making as Perception is based on the premise that analogy-making is fundamentally a high-level perceptual process in which the interaction of perception and concepts gives rise to "conceptual slippages" which allow analogies to be made. It describes Copycat - a computer model of analogymaking, developed by the author with Douglas Hofstadter, that models the complex, subconscious interaction between perception and concepts that underlies the creation of analogies.

In Copycat, both concepts and high-level perception are emergent phenomena, arising from large numbers of low-level, parallel, non-deterministic activities. In the spectrum of cognitive modeling approaches, Copycat occupies a unique intermediate position between symbolic systems and connectionist systems a position that is at present the most useful one for understanding the fluidity of concepts and high-level perception.

On one level the work described here is about analogy-making, but on another level it is about cognition in general. It explores such issues as the nature of concepts and perception and the emergence of highly flexible concepts from a lower-level "subcognitive" substrate.

Melanie Mitchell, Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan, is a Fellow of the Michigan Society of Fellows. She is also Director of the Adaptive Computation Program at the Santa Fe Institute.

Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives

The last decade saw the arrival of a new player in the creation/evolution debate—the intelligent design creationism (IDC) movement, whose strategy is to act as "the wedge" to overturn Darwinism and scientific naturalism. This anthology of writings by prominent creationists and their critics focuses on what is novel about the new movement. It serves as a companion to Robert Pennock's Tower of Babel, in which he criticizes the wedge movement, as well as other new varieties of creationism.

The book contains articles previously published in specialized, hard-to-find journals, as well as new contributions. Each section contains introductory background information, articles by influential creationists and their critics, and in some cases responses by the creationists. The discussions cover IDC as a political movement, IDC's philosophical attack on evolution, the theological debate over the apparent conflict between evolution and the Bible, IDC's scientific claims, and philosopher Alvin Plantinga's critique of naturalism and evolution. The book concludes with Pennock's "Why Creationism Should Not Be Taught in the Public Schools."

Wonders and the Order of Nature is about the ways in which European naturalists from the High Middle Ages through the Enlightenment used wonder and wonders, the passion and its objects, to envision themselves and the natural world. Monsters, gems that shone in the dark, petrifying springs, celestial apparitions—these were the marvels that adorned romances, puzzled philosophers, lured collectors, and frightened the devout. Drawing on the histories of art, science, philosophy, and literature, Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park explore and explain how wonder and wonders fortified princely power, rewove the texture of scientific experience, and shaped the sensibility of intellectuals. This is a history of the passions of inquiry, of how wonder sometimes inflamed, sometimes dampened curiosity about nature's best-kept secrets. Refracted through the prism of wonders, the order of nature splinters into a spectrum of orders, a tour of possible worlds.

A Search for the Hidden Meaning of Science

Nature has secrets, and it is the desire to uncover them that motivates the scientific quest. But what makes these "secrets" secret? Is it that they are beyond human ken? that they concern divine matters? And if they are accessible to human seeking, why do they seem so carefully hidden? Such questions are at the heart of Peter Pesic's enlightening effort to uncover the meaning of modern science.

Pesic portrays the struggle between the scientist and nature as the ultimate game of hide-and-seek, in which a childlike wonder propels the exploration of mysteries. Witness the young Albert Einstein, fascinated by a compass and the sense it gave him of "something deeply hidden behind things." In musical terms, the book is a triple fugue, interweaving three themes: the epic struggle between the scientist and nature; the distilling effects of the struggle on the scientist; and the emergence from this struggle of symbolic mathematics, the purified language necessary to decode nature's secrets.

Pesic's quest for the roots of science begins with three key Renaissance figures: William Gilbert, a physician who began the scientific study of magnetism; François Viète, a French codebreaker who played a crucial role in the foundation of symbolic mathematics; and Francis Bacon, a visionary who anticipated the shape of modern science. Pesic then describes the encounters of three modern masters—Johannes Kepler, Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein—with the depths of nature. Throughout, Pesic reads scientific works as works of literature, attending to nuance and tone as much as to surface meaning. He seeks the living center of human concern as it emerges in the ongoing search for nature's secrets.

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