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The Nature of Philosophical Problems: Their Causes and Implications // Reviews // Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // University of Notre Dame
"John Kekes, The Nature of Philosophical Problems: Their Causes and Implications, Oxford University Press, 2014, 238pp., $55.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198712756."
book  review  philosophy  history  change  explanation 
november 2014 by tsuomela
Political Extremism Is Supported by an Illusion of Understanding
"People often hold extreme political attitudes about complex policies. We hypothesized that people typically know less about such policies than they think they do (the illusion of explanatory depth) and that polarized attitudes are enabled by simplistic causal models. Asking people to explain policies in detail both undermined the illusion of explanatory depth and led to attitudes that were more moderate (Experiments 1 and 2). Although these effects occurred when people were asked to generate a mechanistic explanation, they did not occur when people were instead asked to enumerate reasons for their policy preferences (Experiment 2). Finally, generating mechanistic explanations reduced donations to relevant political advocacy groups (Experiment 3). The evidence suggests that people’s mistaken sense that they understand the causal processes underlying policies contributes to political polarization."
politics  extremism  understanding  illusion  explanation  bias  cognition 
may 2014 by tsuomela
Adam Gopnik: The New Neuro-Skeptics : The New Yorker
"The really curious thing about minds and brains is that the truth about them lies not somewhere in the middle but simultaneously on both extremes. We know already that the wet bits of the brain change the moods of the mind: that’s why a lot of champagne gets sold on Valentine’s Day. On the other hand, if the mind were not a high-level symbol-managing device, flower sales would not rise on Valentine’s Day, too. Philosophy may someday dissolve into psychology and psychology into neurology, but since the lesson of neuro is that thoughts change brains as much as brains thoughts, the reduction may not reduce much that matters. As Montaigne wrote, we are always double in ourselves. Or, as they say on the Enterprise, it takes all kinds to run a starship."
books  review  neurology  neuroscience  science  explanation  psychology  philosophy 
september 2013 by tsuomela
Why do funding agencies favor hypothesis testing?
"Exploratory inquiry has difficulty attracting research funding because funding agencies have little sense of how to detect good science in exploratory contexts. After documenting and explaining the focus on hypothesis testing among a variety of institutions responsible for distinguishing between good and bad science, I analyze the NIH grant review process. I argue that a good explanation for the focus on hypothesis testing—at least at the level of science funding agencies—is the fact that hypothesis-driven research is relatively easy to appraise. I then explore one method by which we might gauge the epistemic merits of different styles of inquiry."
sts  science  funding  methods  quantitative  economics  explanation  philosophy 
august 2013 by tsuomela
UnderstandingSociety: How things work
"But think about the challenge of understanding society from the other end of the stick -- the perspective of the ordinary participant. From the participant's perspective the situation often looks more like an environment of black boxes: how will the world respond if I do X, Y, or Z? And for a significant part of society, how the boxes work is a life-affecting mystery."
social-epistemology  explanation  perspective  science  ordinary  expertise  poverty 
july 2012 by tsuomela
If systems were fishes we’d all something something | Notional Slurry
"But the inter­est­ing thing, to me, is that in stir­ring the pot of soci­ol­ogy, Mar­tin has wielded the same spoon I’ve been wav­ing for years in… well, what­ever the hell my “field” is. “Genetic pro­gram­ming” maybe (have I told you how much I dis­like the phrase yet today?), or machine learn­ing, or arti­fi­cial intelligence.

That is: the Spoon of Re-​​drawing Sys­tem Bound­aries to Include the User as an Inte­gral Part of the Sys­tem. [Or, as I like to call it, SpoRSyBoIUIPotS]"
systems  complexity  user  center  periphery  explanation  social-science 
june 2012 by tsuomela
UnderstandingSociety: Does the microfoundations principle imply reductionism?
"So I continue to believe both things: that statements about social entities and powers must be compatible there being microfoundations for these properties and powers
philosophy  social-science  explanation  micro-meso-macro  supervenience  emergence  causation 
may 2012 by tsuomela
[1201.2069] No entailing laws, but enablement in the evolution of the biosphere
Biological evolution is a complex blend of ever changing structural stability, variability and emergence of new phenotypes, niches, ecosystems. We wish to argue that the evolution of life marks the end of a physics world view of law entailed dynamics.
science  law  philosophy  explanation  evolution  complexity 
april 2012 by tsuomela
UnderstandingSociety: Neil Gross's pragmatist sociology
"What makes this set of assumptions a "pragmatist" approach? Fundamentally, because it understands the actor as situated within a field of assumptions, modes of behavior, ways of perceiving
action  agents  structure  norms  sociology  explanation  philosophy  pragmatism  theory  social-theory  rationality 
april 2012 by tsuomela
UnderstandingSociety: Ordinary and theoretical knowledge of capitalism
"Is the participant-level even the right perspective from which to try to identify an explanation? I don't think so. Were conditions in this factory harsh because this owner was hostile or cruel towards these particular workers? No, rather because the competitive environment of profitability and accumulation created an inexorable race to the bottom. So we can't explain this factory's working conditions by referring to specific features of this factory and its owner. This logic is spelled out very clearly in Capital, and it is a system-level characteristic."
sociology  explanation  level  system  scale  foundation  phenomenology  participation  capitalism  social-theory  theory 
march 2012 by tsuomela
UnderstandingSociety: Social subjectivities
"So it seems fairly clear and direct to say that human subjectivity is itself an important cause of a variety of forms of social patterns: forms of collective behavior, the shaping of social practices, and the adjustment and accommodation of the behavior of other actors in society. This seems to have a fairly striking consequence, however: it seems to imply that the ways that we think about society and social relations actually has a substantial effect on the ways in which society plays out. This is a fundamentally different situation from the natural sciences
sociology  social  explanation  subjectivity  psychology  philosophy  causation 
march 2012 by tsuomela
Your body wasn’t built to last: a lesson from human mortality rates « Gravity and Levity
"This is the Gompertz law, in cartoon form: your body is deteriorating over time at a particular rate. When its “internal policemen” are good enough to patrol every spot that might contain a criminal 14 times a day, then you have the body of a 25-year-old and a 0.03% chance of dying this year. But by the time your police force can only patrol every spot 7 times per day, you have the body of a 95-year-old with only a 2-in-3 chance of making it through the year."
biology  age  aging  science  statistics  explanation  health  death  longevity  mortality 
january 2012 by tsuomela
Two Theories of Home Heat Control* - Kempton - 2010 - Cognitive Science - Wiley Online Library
People routinely develop their own theories to explain the world around them. These theories can be useful even when they contradict conventional technical wisdom. Based on in-depth interviews about home heating and thermostat setting behavior, the present study presents two theories people use to understand and adjust their thermostats. The two theories are here called the feedback theory and the valve theory. The valve theory is inconsistent with engineering knowledge, but is estimated to be held by 25% to 50% of Americans. Predictions of each of the theories are compared with the operations normally performed in home heat control. This comparison suggests that the valve theory may be highly functional in normal day-to-day use. Further data is needed on the ways this theory guides behavior in natural environments.
philosophy  psychology  explanation  folk-psychology  science  folk  theory  expertise  laypeople 
december 2011 by tsuomela
Discerning the Division of Cognitive Labor: An Emerging Understanding of How Knowledge Is Clustered in Other Minds - Keil - 2010 - Cognitive Science - Wiley Online Library
The division of cognitive labor is fundamental to all cultures. Adults have a strong sense of how knowledge is clustered in the world around them and use that sense to access additional information, defer to relevant experts, and ground their own incomplete understandings. One prominent way of clustering knowledge is by disciplines similar to those that comprise the natural and social sciences. Seven studies explored an emerging sense of these discipline-based ways of clustering of knowledge. Even 5-year-olds could cluster knowledge in a manner roughly corresponding to the departments of natural and social sciences in a university, doing so without any explicit awareness of those academic disciplines. But this awareness is fragile early on and competes with other ways of clustering knowledge. Over the next few years, children come to see discipline-based clusters as having a privileged status, one that may be linked to increasingly sophisticated assumptions about essences for natural kinds. Possible mechanisms for this developmental shift are examined.
philosophy  psychology  explanation  folk-psychology  science  folk  theory  expertise  laypeople  understanding  knowledge  division  labor 
december 2011 by tsuomela
The Feasibility of Folk Science - Keil - 2010 - Cognitive Science - Wiley Online Library
If folk science means individuals having well worked out mechanistic theories of the workings of the world, then it is not feasible. Laypeople’s explanatory understandings are remarkably coarse, full of gaps, and often full of inconsistencies. Even worse, most people overestimate their own understandings. Yet recent views suggest that formal scientists may not be so different. In spite of these limitations, science somehow works and its success offers hope for the feasibility of folk science as well. The success of science arises from the ways in which scientists learn to leverage understandings in other minds and to outsource explanatory work through sophisticated methods of deference and simplification of complex systems. Three studies ask whether analogous processes might be present not only in laypeople but also in young children and thereby form a foundation for supplementing explanatory understandings almost from the start of our first attempts to make sense of the world.
philosophy  psychology  explanation  folk-psychology  science  folk  theory  expertise  laypeople 
december 2011 by tsuomela
ScienceDirect - Cognition : Two dogmas of conceptual empiricism: implications for hybrid models of the structure of knowledge
Concepts seem to consist of both an associative component based on tabulations of feature typicality and similarity judgments and an explanatory component based on rules and causal principles. However, there is much controversy about how each component functions in concept acquisition and use. Here we consider two assumptions, or dogmas, that embody this controversy and underlie much of the current cognitive science research on concepts. Dogma 1: Novel information is first processed via similarity judgments and only later is influenced by explanatory components. Dogma 2: Children initially have only a similarity-based component for learning concepts
cognition  concepts  knowledge  philosophy  psychology  explanation 
december 2011 by tsuomela
How Airplanes Fly
Good example for the "illusion of explanatory depth"
science  explanation  flying  physics  complexity  illusion  psychology  expertise 
december 2011 by tsuomela
MIT Press Journals - Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience - Abstract - The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations
Explanations of psychological phenomena seem to generate more public interest when they contain neuroscientific information. Even irrelevant neuroscience information in an explanation of a psychological phenomenon may interfere with people's abilities to critically consider the underlying logic of this explanation.
neuroscience  neurology  explanation  belief  perception  credibility  trust 
october 2011 by tsuomela
UnderstandingSociety: Current issues in causation research
Three foci of current research: meaning in explanation, methods for support, ontology of causation.
philosophy  causation  sociology  social  societies  understanding  research  science  explanation  meaning 
september 2011 by tsuomela
Predicting Premeditation: Future Behavior is Seen as More Intentional than Past Behavior by Zachary Burns, Eugene Caruso, Daniel Bartels :: SSRN
"People‟s intuitions about the underlying causes of past and future actions might not be the same. In three studies, we demonstrate that people judge the same behavior as more intentional when it will be performed in the future than when it has been performed in the past. We found this temporal asymmetry in perceptions of both the strength of an individual‟s intention and the overall prevalence of intentional behavior in a population. Because of its heightened intentionality, people thought the same transgression deserved more severe punishment when it would occur in the future than when it did occur in the past. The difference in judgments of both intentionality and punishment were partly explained by the stronger emotional reactions that were elicited in response to future actions than past actions. We consider the implications of this temporal asymmetry for legal decision making and theories of attribution more generally. "
future  perception  intention  intentionality  law  temporal  explanation  behavior  social-psychology 
august 2011 by tsuomela
A Point Everyone Has Already Made | Easily Distracted
"Any given episode of riot is brimming over with contingency. One is as near and present as one person throwing a brick through a window and as far away as an old lady shaking a shaming finger at a neighbor poised with a brick in his hand. Given the dire combination of circumstances in most 21st Century societies, it’s as safe to predict that there will be a riot next week, next year, next decade as it is to predict that the weather is going to change and the seasons will come. So yes, change that combination of circumstances and you’ll change the weather, but damn if there aren’t a lot of interacting elements to consider."
riots  city(London)  complexity  sociology  explanation  punishment  law 
august 2011 by tsuomela
A Crude and Simplifying Metaphor | Easily Distracted
"But let me propose instead a metaphor that I find more congenial for understanding the architecture of the political moment.

Let’s say you’re a player for a perpetually losing sports team in a league where there’s two or three teams that always dominate the competition year after year. Everyone but the die-hard fans have deserted you. Some of your former fans have just given up watching the sport altogether, some watch the winning teams diffidently from afar.

It’s a familiar scenario from a zillion sports films and even occasionally resembles the real-life narratives that emerge out of sports and games.

As a member of the always-losing team, you have a few explanatory options, which then suggest a few possible ways to act:"
politics  metaphor  explanation  leftism  liberal 
july 2011 by tsuomela
Stumbling and Mumbling: Class, power
"We cannot have a reasonable debate about class, because cognitive biases such as these are ubiquitous. Successful power structures persist in large part because the way in which power is exercised is hidden from us. The importance of class and the lack of discussion of it are two sides of the same fact."
politics  marxism  ideology  power  class  class-war  economics  explanation  bias 
june 2011 by tsuomela
What's Natural? Peter Temin in Conversation with The Straddler
"In my opinion, macroeconomics has lost its way. The kind of models that many people use—general equilibrium models—start from assumptions of perfect competition, omniscient consumers, and various like things which give rise to an efficient economy. As far as I know, there has never been an economy that actually looked like that—it’s an intellectual construct. But many people claim that the outcomes of that economy are natural outcomes. When you say “natural,” you already have an emotionally laden term. Deviations from the “natural”—say, like, minimum wage laws, or unions, or governments that give food stamps, or earned income tax credits—are interferences with the natural order and are therefore “unnatural.""
economics  history  explanation  markets  ideology  naturalism  philosophy  macroeconomic  unnatural 
may 2011 by tsuomela
The New Atlantis » The Unbearable Wholeness of Beings
Here, then, is my question: Are you and I machines? Are we analyzable without remainder into a collection of mechanisms whose operation can be fully explained by the causal operation of physical and chemical laws, starting from the parts and proceeding to the whole? It might seem so, judging from the insistent testimony of those whose work is to understand life.
biology  explanation  metaphor  machine  science  philosophy 
april 2011 by tsuomela
UnderstandingSociety: New ideas about structure and agency
" A dichotomy that spans many of the social sciences is the opposition of structure versus agency. "Structures" are said to be the objective complexes of social institutions within which people live and act. "Agents" are said to be human deliberators and choosers who navigate their life plans in an environment of constraints. If structure and agent are considered to be ontologically distinct levels, then we have a series of difficult questions to confront. For example: Which has causal priority? Are structures determinative of social outcomes, with agents merely playing their roles within these structures? Or are agents the drivers of social causation, and structures are merely secondary effects of individual-level actions and states of consciousness? "
social-science  explanation  agents  structure 
march 2011 by tsuomela
UnderstandingSociety: Bourdieu's "field"
"These comments give us a better idea of what a "field" encompasses. It is a zone of social activity in which there are "creators" who are intent on creating a certain kind of cultural product. The product is defined, in part, by the expectations and values of the audience -- not simply the creator. The audience is multiple, from specialist connoisseurs to the mass public. And the product is supported and filtered by a range of overlapping social institutions -- galleries, academies, journals, reviews, newspapers, universities, patrons, sources of funding, and the market for works of "culture." It is also important to observe that we could have begun this inventory of components at any point
sociology  culture  explanation  theory  BourdieuPierre 
march 2011 by tsuomela
UnderstandingSociety: Searle on social ontology
"Searle thinks that rules, institutions, and collective intentions are the fundamental "atoms" of social phenomena
social  ontology  philosophy  theory  sociology  explanation  language  linguistics  speech 
march 2011 by tsuomela
UnderstandingSociety: Methodological localism
"I offer a social ontology that I refer to as methodological localism (ML). This theory of social entities affirms that there are large social structures and facts that influence social outcomes. But it insists that these structures are only possible insofar as they are embodied in the actions and states of socially constructed individuals. The “molecule” of all social life is the socially constructed and socially situated individual, who lives, acts, and develops within a set of local social relationships, institutions, norms, and rules."
sociology  explanation  social  ontology  philosophy  theory  localism  methodology 
march 2011 by tsuomela
UnderstandingSociety: Spartacus, Kitty Genovese, and social explanation
"The challenge of explanation for any social outcome, we might say, is that of constructing an interpretation of the states of minds of a set of actors
sociology  explanation  social  ontology  philosophy  theory 
march 2011 by tsuomela
Open the Future: Neodicy
The practice of foresight needs within its philosophical underpinnings a similar discourse that treats the fear of dangerous outcomes as a real and meaningful concern, one that can neither be waved away as pessimism nor treated as the sole truth — a "neodicy," if you will. Neodicies would grapple with the very real question of how we can justifiably believe in better futures while still acknowledging the risks that will inevitably arise as our futures unfold. Such a discourse may even allow the rehabilitation of the concept of progress, the idea that as a civilization we do learn from our mistakes, and have the capacity to make our futures better than our past.
future  futurism  futurists  philosophy  fear  neodicy  explanation 
december 2010 by tsuomela
LRB · David Bromwich · The Fastidious President
His eloquence finds its natural key not in explanations but in statements of purpose. Obama wants credit for the highest intentions even when conceding that he lacks the will to fulfil them. The trouble is that a politician who says what he would like to do and then fails to do it leaves himself open to attack on both counts. You disappoint your supporters and at the same time give notice to your enemies that the thing they stopped you from doing was the thing you would have liked to do.
politics  obama  rhetoric  speech  speaking  action  eloquence  explanation  purpose  intention  policies  fastidious  power 
november 2010 by tsuomela
David Bromwich: The Dying Art of Political Explanation
A middle layer of explanation has certainly been lacking from the start: the effort of persuasion that is neither inspirational nor tactical, where a leader tries to convert people to his side. This is the level at which one must articulate the reasons for a policy, along with the understanding of the public good from which the policy has issued and the historical context that makes it necessary and desirable.
obama  rhetoric  explanation  politics  persuasion 
october 2010 by tsuomela
"Identity Economics" by George Akerlof and Rachel Kranton: A Rambling Review - Whimsley
Identity Economics explains many persistent social patterns like gender-based segregation in the workforce or the high rates of dropout from school among African Americans. It does so using the tools of rational choice – game theory, based on utility maximizing individuals and their interactions -- but it looks to the social phenomenon of identity as an important source of individual utility. Society is shaped by individuals who are shaped in turn by society. In a series of three long papers Kranton and Akerlof described an economics of identity and applied it to some important problems; they have now pulled together material from these papers and present the core ideas in book form.
book  review  economics  game-theory  sociology  social-science  explanation  identity 
june 2010 by tsuomela
Observations: People with Asperger's less likely to see purpose behind the events in their lives
These results support the idea that seeing purpose behind life events is a result of our mind’s focus on social thinking. People whose social cognition is impaired—those with Asperger’s, in this case—are less likely to see the events in their lives as having happened for a reason.
psychology  philosophy  perception  story-telling  autism  aspergers  teleology  explanation 
june 2010 by tsuomela
Sandra D. Mitchell - Unsimple Truths: Science, Complexity, and Policy - Reviewed by Daniel Steel, Michigan State University - Philosophical Reviews - University of Notre Dame
Sandra Mitchell's Unsimple Truths attempts, in a format intended to be accessible to a broad audience of scientifically literate readers, to show how complexities revealed by modern sciences in general and biology in particular demand a fundamental refiguring of traditional philosophical perspectives on science. The central elements of this traditional perspective, according to Mitchell, are reductionism, a commitment to explanation via universal laws similar to those found in physics, and a conception of causation according to which the impacts of distinct causes can be neatly separated from one another. Mitchell's own contrasting perspective, which she labels integrative pluralism, emphasizes the importance of explanations that span multiple levels of analysis, that rely on contingent generalizations of varying degrees of stability, and that recognize the complexities inherent in dynamic systems involving a multitude of interacting and context dependent causes.
book  review  philosophy  science  explanation  naturalism  pragmatism  policy 
may 2010 by tsuomela
The Arc of Evolution Is Long and Rarely Bends Towards Advantageous Alleles: Why Does Popular Science Ignore Neutral Theory? : Mike the Mad Biologist
Because that's not the philosophically challenging part. Unless you're a biblical 'literalist', the idea of a creator dude who acts through the mechanism of natural selection isn't too theologically challenging. After all, traits that are beneficial (at least locally and in the short term) increase, while the deleterious ones decrease. Surely, this is the best of all possible worlds..

The neutral theory was developed to make sense of molecular variation. Importantly, it asks a subtly different question about variation. Typically, when you encounter explanations of natural selection, it's usually along the lines of: "There are a bunch of grey ones, and a bunch of brown ones. Under the right ecological circumstances, the grey ones replace the brown ones."

Neutral theory starts from the (obvious) assumption that a novel allele (gene variant) initially occurs as a single copy in a population.
evolution  genetics  population  biology  science  explanation 
april 2010 by tsuomela
Methodological Naturalism and Philosophical Naturalism
In response to the charge that methodological naturalism in science logically requires the a priori adoption of a naturalistic metaphysics, I examine the question whether methodological naturalism entails philosophical (ontological or metaphysical) naturalism. I conclude that the relationship between methodological and philosophical naturalism, while not one of logical entailment, is the only reasonable metaphysical conclusion given (1) the demonstrated success of methodological naturalism, combined with (2) the massive amount of knowledge gained by it, (3) the lack of a method or epistemology for knowing the supernatural, and (4) the subsequent lack of evidence for the supernatural. The above factors together provide solid grounding for philosophical naturalism, while supernaturalism remains little more than a logical possibility.
philosophy  science  explanation  nature  naturalism  epistemology  methodology  religion  theology  theory  supernatural  teleology 
september 2009 by tsuomela
Methodological Naturalism? Part 1. Origins & Design 18:1. Plantinga, Alvin
The philosophical doctrine of methodological naturalism holds that, for any study of the world to qualify as "scientific," it cannot refer to God's creative activity (or any sort of divine activity). The methods of science, it is claimed, "give us no purchase" on theological propositions--even if the latter are true--and theology therefore cannot influence scientific explanation or theory justification. Thus, science is said to be religiously neutral, if only because science and religion are, by their very natures, epistemically distinct. However, the actual practice and content of science challenge this claim. In many areas, science is anything but religiously neutral; moreover, the standard arguments for methodological naturalism suffer from various grave shortcomings.
philosophy  science  explanation  nature  naturalism  epistemology  methodology  religion  theology  teleology 
september 2009 by tsuomela
Scientific Explanation (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Models: DN Deductive-Nomological (Hempel); SR - Statistical Relevance; CM - Causal Mechanical; unification
philosophy  science  explanation  nature  naturalism  epistemology  methodology  history  causation  model  theory  statistics  deduction 
september 2009 by tsuomela
Theories of Explanation [The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]
Possible theories: realist (explained entities exist); epistemic (explanations are useful for organizing human experience); ordinary language (explanations are useful for communication); cognitive science (explanations are a kind of mental representation that result from cognition).
philosophy  science  explanation  nature  naturalism  epistemology  methodology  cognitive-science  ordinary-language 
september 2009 by tsuomela
Naturalism [The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]
Naturalism is an approach to philosophical problems that interprets them as tractable through the methods of the empirical sciences or at least, without a distinctively a priori project of theorizing.
philosophy  science  explanation  nature  naturalism  epistemology  methodology 
september 2009 by tsuomela
LRB · Jerry Fodor: Why Pigs Don’t Have Wings
Discussed at Understanding Philosophy on 9/16/09. Fodor argues that adaptationism or natural selection faces a major problem dealing with coextensive evolution.
evolution  explanation  theory  science  philosophy  adaptation  biology  sts  naturalism  natural-selection  darwin  charles  spandrel 
september 2009 by tsuomela
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