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In the past century, nearly all of the biological sciences have been directly affected by discoveries and developments in genetics, a fast-evolving subject with important theoretical dimensions. In this rich and accessible book, Paul Griffiths and Karola Stotz show how the concept of the gene has evolved and diversified across the many fields that make up modern biology. By examining the molecular biology of the 'environment', they situate genetics in the developmental biology of whole organisms, and reveal how the molecular biosciences have undermined the nature/nurture distinction. Their discussion gives full weight to the revolutionary impacts of molecular biology, while rejecting 'genocentrism' and 'reductionism', and brings the topic right up to date with the philosophical implications of the most recent developments in genetics. Their book will be invaluable for those studying the philosophy of biology, genetics and other life sciences.
Book Information and Living Systems Description/Summary:
The informational nature of biological organization, at levels from the genetic and epigenetic to the cognitive and linguistic. Information shapes biological organization in fundamental ways and at every organizational level. Because organisms use information—including DNA codes, gene expression, and chemical signaling—to construct, maintain, repair, and replicate themselves, it would seem only natural to use information-related ideas in our attempts to understand the general nature of living systems, the causality by which they operate, the difference between living and inanimate matter, and the emergence, in some biological species, of cognition, emotion, and language. And yet philosophers and scientists have been slow to do so. This volume fills that gap. Information and Living Systems offers a collection of original chapters in which scientists and philosophers discuss the informational nature of biological organization at levels ranging from the genetic to the cognitive and linguistic. The chapters examine not only familiar information-related ideas intrinsic to the biological sciences but also broader information-theoretic perspectives used to interpret their significance. The contributors represent a range of disciplines, including anthropology, biology, chemistry, cognitive science, information theory, philosophy, psychology, and systems theory, thus demonstrating the deeply interdisciplinary nature of the volume's bioinformational theme.
A comprehensive treatment of the concept of causation in evolutionary biology that makes clear its central role in both historical and contemporary debates. Most scientific explanations are causal. This is certainly the case in evolutionary biology, which seeks to explain the diversity of life and the adaptive fit between organisms and their surroundings. The nature of causation in evolutionary biology, however, is contentious. How causation is understood shapes the structure of evolutionary theory, and historical and contemporary debates in evolutionary biology have revolved around the nature of causation. Despite its centrality, and differing views on the subject, the major conceptual issues regarding the nature of causation in evolutionary biology are rarely addressed. This volume fills the gap, bringing together biologists and philosophers to offer a comprehensive, interdisciplinary treatment of evolutionary causation. Contributors first address biological motivations for rethinking evolutionary causation, considering the ways in which development, extra-genetic inheritance, and niche construction challenge notions of cause and process in evolution, and describing how alternative representations of evolutionary causation can shed light on a range of evolutionary problems. Contributors then analyze evolutionary causation from a philosophical perspective, considering such topics as causal entanglement, the commingling of organism and environment, and the relationship between causation and information. Contributors John A. Baker, Lynn Chiu, David I. Dayan, Renée A. Duckworth, Marcus W Feldman, Susan A. Foster, Melissa A. Graham, Heikki Helanterä, Kevin N. Laland, Armin P. Moczek, John Odling-Smee, Jun Otsuka, Massimo Pigliucci, Arnaud Pocheville, Arlin Stoltzfus, Karola Stotz, Sonia E. Sultan, Christoph Thies, Tobias Uller, Denis M. Walsh, Richard A. Watson
Teleosemantics seeks to explain meaning and other intentional phenomena in terms of their function in the life of the species. This volume of new essays from an impressive line-up of well-known contributors offers a valuable summary of the current state of the teleosemantics debate.
Book What's Left of Human Nature? Description/Summary:
A philosophical account of human nature that defends the concept against dehumanization, Darwinian, and developmentalist challenges. Human nature has always been a foundational issue for philosophy. What does it mean to have a human nature? Is the concept the relic of a bygone age? What is the use of such a concept? What are the epistemic and ontological commitments people make when they use the concept? In What's Left of Human Nature? Maria Kronfeldner offers a philosophical account of human nature that defends the concept against contemporary criticism. In particular, she takes on challenges related to social misuse of the concept that dehumanizes those regarded as lacking human nature (the dehumanization challenge); the conflict between Darwinian thinking and essentialist concepts of human nature (the Darwinian challenge); and the consensus that evolution, heredity, and ontogenetic development result from nurture and nature. After answering each of these challenges, Kronfeldner presents a revisionist account of human nature that minimizes dehumanization and does not fall back on outdated biological ideas. Her account is post-essentialist because it eliminates the concept of an essence of being human; pluralist in that it argues that there are different things in the world that correspond to three different post-essentialist concepts of human nature; and interactive because it understands nature and nurture as interacting at the developmental, epigenetic, and evolutionary levels. On the basis of this, she introduces a dialectical concept of an ever-changing and “looping” human nature. Finally, noting the essentially contested character of the concept and the ambiguity and redundancy of the terminology, she wonders if we should simply eliminate the term “human nature” altogether.
In A Mark of the Mental, Karen Neander considers the representational power of mental states -- described by the cognitive scientist Zenon Pylyshyn as the "second hardest puzzle" of philosophy of mind (the first being consciousness). The puzzle at the heart of the book is sometimes called "the problem of mental content," "Brentano's problem," or "the problem of intentionality." Its motivating mystery is how neurobiological states can have semantic properties such as meaning or reference. Neander proposes a naturalistic account for sensory-perceptual (nonconceptual) representations. Neander draws on insights from state-space semantics (which appeals to relations of second-order similarity between representing and represented domains), causal theories of reference (which claim the reference relation is a causal one), and teleosemantic theories (which claim that semantic norms, at their simplest, depend on functional norms). She proposes and defends an intuitive, theoretically well-motivated but highly controversial thesis: sensory-perceptual systems have the function to produce inner state changes that are the analogs of as well as caused by their referents. Neander shows that the three main elements -- functions, causal-information relations, and relations of second-order similarity -- complement rather than conflict with each other. After developing an argument for teleosemantics by examining the nature of explanation in the mind and brain sciences, she develops a theory of mental content and defends it against six main content-determinacy challenges to a naturalized semantics.
Reductionism is a widely endorsed methodology among biologists, a metaphysical theory advanced to vindicate the biologist's methodology, and an epistemic thesis those opposed to reductionism have been eager to refute. While the methodology has gone from strength to strength in its history of achievements, the metaphysical thesis grounding it remained controversial despite its significant changes over the last 75 years of the philosophy of science. Meanwhile, antireductionism about biology, and especially Darwinian natural selection, became orthodoxy in philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, and philosophy of biology. This Element expounds the debate about reductionism in biology, from the work of the post-positivists to the end of the century debates about supervenience, multiple realizability, and explanatory exclusion. It shows how the more widely accepted 21st century doctrine of “mechanism”—reductionism with a human face—inherits both the strengths and the challenges of the view it has largely supplanted.
The Rwandan genocide, the Holocaust, the lynching of African Americans, the colonial slave trade: these are horrific episodes of mass violence spawned from racism and hatred. We like to think that we could never see such evils again--that we would stand up and fight. But something deep in the human psyche--deeper than prejudice itself--leads people to persecute the other: dehumanization, or the human propensity to think of others as less than human. An award-winning author and philosopher, Smith takes an unflinching look at the mechanisms of the mind that encourage us to see someone as less than human. There is something peculiar and horrifying in human psychology that makes us vulnerable to thinking of whole groups of people as subhuman creatures. When governments or other groups stand to gain by exploiting this innate propensity, and know just how to manipulate words and images to trigger it, there is no limit to the violence and hatred that can result. Drawing on numerous historical and contemporary cases and recent psychological research, On Inhumanity is the first accessible guide to the phenomenon of dehumanization. Smith walks readers through the psychology of dehumanization, revealing its underlying role in both notorious and lesser-known episodes of violence from history and current events. In particular, he considers the uncomfortable kinship between racism and dehumanization, where beliefs involving race are so often precursors to dehumanization and the horrors that flow from it. On Inhumanity is bracing and vital reading in a world lurching towards authoritarian political regimes, resurgent white nationalism, refugee crises that breed nativist hostility, and fast-spreading racist rhetoric. The book will open your eyes to the pervasive dangers of dehumanization and the prejudices that can too easily take root within us, and resist them before they spread into the wider world.
Book The Problem of Animal Generation in Early Modern Philosophy Description/Summary:
In this volume Smith examines the early modern science of generation, which included the study of animal conception, heredity, and fetal development. Analyzing how it influenced the contemporary treatment of traditional philosophical questions, it also demonstrates how philosophical pre-suppositions about mechanism, substance, and cause informed the interpretations offered by those conducting empirical research on animal reproduction. Composed of essays written by an international team of leading scholars, the book offers a fresh perspective on some of the basic problems in early modern philosophy. It also considers how these basic problems manifested themselves within an area of scientific inquiry that had not previously received much consideration by historians of philosophy.
Winner of the 2012 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Nonfiction A revelatory look at why we dehumanize each other, with stunning examples from world history as well as today's headlines "Brute." "Cockroach." "Lice." "Vermin." "Dog." "Beast." These and other monikers are constantly in use to refer to other humans—for political, religious, ethnic, or sexist reasons. Human beings have a tendency to regard members of their own kind as less than human. This tendency has made atrocities like the Holocaust, the genocide in Rwanda, and the slave trade possible, and yet we still find it in phenomena such as xenophobia, homophobia, military propaganda, and racism. Less Than Human draws on a rich mix of history, psychology, biology, anthropology and philosophy to document the pervasiveness of dehumanization, describe its forms, and explain why we so often resort to it. David Livingstone Smith posits that this behavior is rooted in human nature, but gives us hope in also stating that biological traits are malleable, showing us that change is possible. Less Than Human is a chilling indictment of our nature, and is as timely as it is relevant.
Book The Gestation of German Biology Description/Summary:
This book explores how and when biology emerged as a science in Germany. Beginning with the debate about organism between Georg Ernst Stahl and Gottfried Leibniz at the start of the eighteenth century, John Zammito traces the development of a new research program, culminating in 1800, in the formulation of developmental morphology. He shows how over the course of the century, naturalists undertook to transform some domains of natural history into a distinct branch of natural philosophy, which attempted not only to describe but to explain the natural world and became, ultimately, the science of biology.
Book How the Body Shapes the Mind Description/Summary:
How the Body Shapes the Mind is an interdisciplinary work that addresses philosophical questions by appealing to evidence found in experimental psychology, neuroscience, studies of pathologies, and developmental psychology. There is a growing consensus across these disciplines that the contribution of embodiment to cognition is inescapable. Because this insight has been developed across a variety of disciplines, however, there is still a need to develop a common vocabulary that is capable of integrating discussions of brain mechanisms in neuroscience, behavioural expressions in psychology, design concerns in artificial intelligence and robotics, and debates about embodied experience in the phenomenology and philosophy of mind. Shaun Gallagher's book aims to contribute to the formulation of that common vocabulary and to develop a conceptual framework that will avoid both the overly reductionistic approaches that explain everything in terms of bottom-up neuronal mechanisms, and inflationistic approaches that explain everything in terms of Cartesian, top-down cognitive states. Gallagher pursues two basic sets of questions. The first set consists of questions about the phenomenal aspects of the structure of experience, and specifically the relatively regular and constant features that we find in the content of our experience. If throughout conscious experience there is a constant reference to one's own body, even if this is a recessive or marginal awareness, then that reference constitutes a structural feature of the phenomenal field of consciousness, part of a framework that is likely to determine or influence all other aspects of experience. The second set of questions concerns aspects of the structure of experience that are more hidden, those that may be more difficult to get at because they happen before we know it. They do not normally enter into the content of experience in an explicit way, and are often inaccessible to reflective consciousness. To what extent, and in what ways, are consciousness and cognitive processes, which include experiences related to perception, memory, imagination, belief, judgement, and so forth, shaped or structured by the fact that they are embodied in this way?
Book A Companion to the Philosophy of Biology Description/Summary:
Comprised of essays by top scholars in the field, this volume offers detailed overviews of philosophical issues raised by biology. Brings together a team of eminent scholars to explore the philosophical issues raised by biology Addresses traditional and emerging topics, spanning molecular biology and genetics, evolution, developmental biology, immunology, ecology, mind and behaviour, neuroscience, and experimentation Begins with a thorough introduction to the field Goes beyond previous treatments that focused only on evolution to give equal attention to other areas, such as molecular and developmental biology Represents both an authoritative guide to philosophy of biology, and an accessible reference work for anyone seeking to learn about this rapidly-changing field
How are philosophical and theological concepts conceived in the mind? Why are certain topics of greater importance to philosophers and theologians? Why do people think about these issues in the first place? These are the questions that are explored in the ground breaking book, "The Metaphysical Mind". Philosophy and theology usually considers various fundamental concepts such as those related to being, reality, causality, logic, or phenomenology. But the philosophical approach to these topics often leaves out one of the most important things - the human brain. After all, it is the brain that is actually thinking about these ideas in the first place. "The Metaphysical Mind" explores the relationship between the brain and philosophical thought and helps us to understand how the brain enables and restricts our ability to think about these metaphysical concepts. One of the major developments of contemporary thought has been the field of hermeneutics. Hermeneutics considers the environmental, linguistic, and cultural factors that influence a given philosopher in order to determine how particular ideas or texts may have been shaped. However, no one has ever examined philosophical and theological thought specifically from the hermeneutical perspective of the neurobiological and genetic substrate that underlies such thinking. This "neuroscientific hermeneutic" or "neurohermeneutic" refers specifically to the functions of the brain and how they are related to various thought processes which have been at the cornerstone of philosophical and theological thought throughout history. Additionally, this neurohermeneutic helps to better interpret how and why such thoughts develop. Neurohermeneutics is based upon a synthesis of information from multiple fields including anthropology, neurophysiology, cognitive neuroscience, genetics, theology, and philosophy. Many of the major milestones in the history of philosophical and theological thought from pre-Socratic thinkers to the present day can be considered from the perspective of the functioning of the human mind and its multimodal interaction with the social, cultural, intellectual, and physical environment. In particular, the development of some of the most dramatic concepts in philosophy and theology can be considered in relation to certain brain functions and how those functions enable human beings to interpret meaning in the world. Similarly, contemplative/meditative traditions can be considered to be associated with certain brain functions in order to explore how such experiences are perceived and interpreted. This book will also consider the issue of the experience of reality from a neurophysiological perspective. This leads to fascinating conclusions regarding the nature and degrees of reality and how the brain experiences that reality. Although not all philosophical and theological concepts will be examined, many of the major movements will be considered in order to extrapolate to the notion that a neurobiological hermeneutic may provide a basis and fundamental bias for all philosophical thinking - a "metaphilosophy" (or "metatheology" in the specific context of religion). Ultimately, this approach might even lead to a "megaphilosophy" containing universal concepts that could be conceived of from any philosophical or theological perspective. The result of this analysis leads to a description of the "metaphysical mind" which is necessarily driven to pursue philosophical and theological questions, but also shapes how the answers to such questions arise. Thus, the brain itself is "designed" to function in a philosophical or metaphysical manner. This revolutionary approach to philosophical and theological thought will provide readers something to think about for the millennium to come.
Book Conscience: The Origins of Moral Intuition Description/Summary:
How do we determine right from wrong? Conscience illuminates the answer through science and philosophy. In her brilliant work Touching a Nerve, Patricia S. Churchland, the distinguished founder of neurophilosophy, drew from scientific research on the brain to understand its philosophical and ethical implications for identity, consciousness, free will, and memory. In Conscience, she explores how moral systems arise from our physical selves in combination with environmental demands. All social groups have ideals for behavior, even though ethics vary among different cultures and among individuals within each culture. In trying to understand why, Churchland brings together an understanding of the influences of nature and nurture. She looks to evolution to elucidate how, from birth, our brains are configured to form bonds, to cooperate, and to care. She shows how children grow up in society to learn, through repetition and rewards, the norms, values, and behavior that their parents embrace. Conscience delves into scientific studies, particularly the fascinating work on twins, to deepen our understanding of whether people have a predisposition to embrace specific ethical stands. Research on psychopaths illuminates the knowledge about those who abide by no moral system and the explanations science gives for these disturbing individuals. Churchland then turns to philosophy—that of Socrates, Aquinas, and contemporary thinkers like Owen Flanagan—to explore why morality is central to all societies, how it is transmitted through the generations, and why different cultures live by different morals. Her unparalleled ability to join ideas rarely put into dialogue brings light to a subject that speaks to the meaning of being human.
To what extent do our parenting practices help or hinder our children? As parents, how much influence do we have over what kind of people our children will grow up to be? In the follow-up to her critically acclaimed Our Babies, Ourselves, Cornell anthropologist Meredith Small now takes on these and other crucial questions about the development of preschool children aged one to six. While Our Babies, Ourselves explored the physical and cultural preconceptions behind child-rearing and offered new clues to parenting practices that might be detrimental to a baby's best interest, Kids delves even deeper. Unraveling the deep-seated notions prescribed in most parenting books, Kids combines the latest scientific research on human evolution and biology with Small's own keen observations of various cultures for a lively, eye-opening view of early childhood in America. Small not only reveals how children in this age group socialize and absorb the rules that underlie the societies they live in; she also explains the extent to which parents enhance or hold back the emotional and psychological growth of their kids. In her engaging style, Small blends memorable accounts from her own experiences raising a preschooler with fascinating findings from her pioneering cross-cultural research, which spanned the country as well as the globe. Covering myriad aspects of the miraculous process of human growth, Small breaks new ground on topics such as why childhood is the optimum time for acquiring language skills; how children absorb knowledge and learn to solve problems; how empathy, and morality in general, make their way into a child's psyche; and the ways in which gender impacts identity. Underlying each chapter is an illuminating discussion of how the roles parents assign children in America shape the self-esteem and self-image of a future generation. Rich with vivid anecdotes and profound insight, Kids will cause readers to rethink their own parenting styles, along with every age-old assumption about how to raise a happy, healthy kid.
Book Mechanisms in Molecular Biology Description/Summary:
The new mechanistic philosophy is divided into two largely disconnected projects. One deals with a metaphysical inquiry into how mechanisms relate to issues such as causation, capacities and levels of organization, while the other deals with epistemic issues related to the discovery of mechanisms and the intelligibility of mechanistic representations. Tudor Baetu explores and explains these projects, and shows how the gap between them can be bridged. His proposed account is compatible both with the assumptions and practices of experimental design in biological research, and with scientifically accepted interpretations of experimental results.