Tag Archives: philosophy

Genotype-phenotype distinction, with schemas

A revised entry on the genotype-phenotype distinction has been published by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. A major difficulty we had preparing this revision followed once it was noted that philosophers write on the genotype-phenotype relationship, not on the genotype-phenotype distinction. Continue reading

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Hacking almost helps us see what Hacking overlooks

The Social Construction of What? (Harvard UP, 2000) by philosopher of science, Ian Hacking, critically reviews the possible meanings of social construction in the context of scientific knowledge and technology.  However, there is one meaning of construction that he does not consider, perhaps the most obvious one to the common person, namely, the process of building a structure from diverse materials, as in the foundations, frames, walls, roof, plumbing and electrical circuits, and so on. (2011 post)

A 1975 book of Hacking’s, What does language matter to philosophy?, almost allows us to see what he overlooked at that time and still did in the 2000 book, namely, that knowing always involves engaging [*] or acting as if the world were like our explicit and implicit theories and representations of it. Continue reading

Philosophy of ecology

Abstract of updated article to appear in Encyclopedia of the Life Sciences,

Although philosophy of ecology was slow to become established as an area of formal philosophical interest, there is a rich history of developing and debating conceptual frameworks in ecological and environmental science. A key challenge in conceptualising ecological complexity is to allow simultaneously for particularity, contingency and structure – structure, moreover, that changes, is internally differentiated, and has problematic boundaries. In contrast to ambitions of earlier decades for identifying general principles about systems and communities, ecologists now widely assert historical contingency, nonequilibrium formulations, local context and individual detail. Given that all organisms – humans included – live in dynamic ecological contexts, philosophy of ecology raises more general questions about conceptualising the positionality of humans and other organisms in the dynamic flux of their intersecting worlds.

Foundations of philosophical thought (not)

A set of episodes or angles on how I might teach “Foundations of Philosophical Thought,” relayed as a 54-minute video given that I won’t have time to write up the thoughts I had during a walk this morning: http://youtu.be/G5MnPXZSi0E

(Comments welcome, including pointing out all the articulate writers [philosophers included] who have dealt with issues I raise and those I overlook or brush past.)

Ecological philosophy: A series of impulses in addressing complexity

A 22-minute youtube of ecological philosophy, taken to refer to conceptual frameworks in ecological and environmental science.

Given the gaps in my knowledge of the literature, especially recent research, I would be grateful for any suggestions listeners/readers can provide, however brief. For example, I would be helped by getting notes of significant publications you think I might have omitted, categories (or, in my terms, impulses) I have overlooked or misconstrued, and so on.  (If you are really interested a draft of the article that the youtube gives an overview of can be viewed at http://ptaylor.wikispaces.umb.edu/EcologicalPhilosophy.) Continue reading

Gender, Race, and the Complexities of Science and Technology: A bibliography

In a 2011 graduate course on “Gender, Race, and the Complexities of Science and Technology,” students were asked to add an annotated reference or resource (=person, organization…) to the evolving googledocs bibliography each week.  (Annotations were to convey the article’s key points as well as its connection to the student’s own inquiries and interests.)  The result is as follows: Continue reading

What do you do as a philosopher of science if you conclude that researchers have overlooked a significant issue for 100 years?

What do you do as a philosopher of science if you conclude that researchers have overlooked a significant issue for 100 years? What does philosophy of science prescribe? (I’ll reveal at the end something significant I think has been overlooked, but these two questions stand even if you don’t see that issue as I do.) Starting with the first question, some possible answers:

  1. Stay quiet—You’re probably mistaken given the numbers of researchers involved over 100 years and science’s self-correcting mechanisms. (Perhaps something gets overlooked for 10 years, but not for 100…)
  2. Submit your ideas to science journals to see if you can get them recognized or have your errors exposed by reviewers.
  3. Submit your ideas to philosophy of science journals, again to see if you can get them recognized or have your errors exposed by reviewers.
  4. Tease out the historical, philosophical, sociological, political implications of the issue that has been overlooked and try to interest researchers from the various fields within science and technology studies in exploring those implications.
  5. Tease out the political implications of the issue that has been overlooked and try to get wider public debate going.

On the second question, the first answer above is consistent with boilerplate philosophical views on the scientific method. For the other four, which cover a range from direct to backdoor or indirect ways to influence scientific debates, Anglo-American philosophy of science does not provide much guidance. Why is that?

Conjectures, refutations, and other comments welcome.  We can also add a third question: What does sociology of science suggest will happen with efforts along the lines of #2-5?

Postscript: The particular issue that led to the questions above is the possibility of underlying heterogeneity that has not (yet) been seen as a significant issue in heritability studies and nature-nurture debates.