During the COVID-19 epidemic, draconian countermeasures forbidding nonessential human activities have been adopted in several countries worldwide, providing an unprecedented setup for testing and quantifying the current impact of humankind on climate and for driving potential sustainability policies in the postpandemic era from a perspective of complex systems. In this study, we consider heterogeneous sources of environmental and human activity observables, considered as components of a complex socioenvironmental system, and apply information theory, network science, and Bayesian inference to analyze their (...) structural relations and nonlinear dynamics between January 2019 and August 2020 in northern Italy, i.e., before, during, and after the national lockdown. The topological structure of a complex system strongly impacts its collective behavior; therefore, mapping this structure is essential to fully understand the functions of the system as a whole and its fragility to unexpected disruptions or shocks. To this aim, we unravel the causal relationships between the 16 environmental conditions and human activity variables, mapping the backbone of the complex interplay between intervening physical observables—such as NO2 emissions, energy consumption, intervening climate variables, and different flavors of human mobility flows—to a causal network model. To identify a tipping point during the period of observation, denoting the presence of a regime shift between distinct network states, we introduce a novel information-theoretic method based on statistical divergence widely used in statistical physics. We find that despite a measurable decrease in NO2 concentration, due to an overall decrease in human activities, locking down a region as a climate change mitigation is an insufficient remedy to reduce emissions. Our results provide a functional characterization of socioenvironmental interdependent systems, and our analytical framework can be used, more generally, to characterize environmental changes and their interdependencies using statistical physics. (shrink)
Individual objects have potentials: paper has the potential to burn, an acorn has the potential to turn into a tree, some people have the potential to run a mile in less than four minutes. Barbara Vetter provides a systematic investigation into the metaphysics of such potentials, and an account of metaphysical modality based on them. -/- In contemporary philosophy, potentials have been recognized mostly in the form of so-called dispositions: solubility, fragility, and so on. Vetter takes dispositions as her (...) starting point, but argues for and develops a more comprehensive conception of potentiality. She shows how, with this more comprehensive conception, an account of metaphysical modality can be given that meets three crucial requirements: Extensional correctness: providing the right truth-values for statements of possibility and necessity; formal adequacy: providing the right logic for metaphysical modality; and semantic utility: providing a semantics that links ordinary modal language to the metaphysics of modality. -/- The resulting view of modality is a version of dispositionalism about modality: it takes modality to be a matter of the dispositions of individual objects. This approach has a long philosophical tradition going back to Aristotle, but has been largely neglected in contemporary philosophy. In recent years, it has become a live option again due to the rise of anti-Humean, powers-based metaphysics. The aim of Potentiality is to develop the dispositionalist view in a way that takes account of contemporary developments in metaphysics, logic, and semantics. (shrink)
I compare Locke's views on the nature and powers of the self with E. J. Lowe's view, ‘non-Cartesian substance dualism’. Lowe agrees with Locke that persons have a power to choose or not to choose. Lowe takes this power to be non-causal. I argue that this move does not obviously succeed in evading the notorious interaction problem that arises for all forms of substance dualism, including those of Locke and Descartes. However, I am sympathetic to Lowe's attempt to give a (...) metaphysical account of a robust sort of agency that would explain how human beings might be genuinely autonomous. (shrink)
How does thinking affect doing? There is a widely held view that thinking about what you are doing, as you are doing it, hinders performance. Once you have acquired the ability to putt a golf ball, play an arpeggio on the piano, or parallel-park, reflecting on your actions leads to inaccuracies, blunders, and sometimes even utter paralysis--that's what is widely believed. But is it true? After exploring some of the contemporary and historical manifestations of the idea, Barbara Gail Montero (...) develops a theory of expertise which emphasizes the role of the conscious mind in expert action. She aims to dispel various myths about experts who proceed without any understanding of what guides their action, and she analyzes research in both philosophy and psychology that is taken to show that conscious control and explicit monitoring of one's movements impedes well practiced skills. Montero explores a wide range of real-life examples of optimal performance, in sports, the performing arts, healthcare, the military, and other fields, and draws from psychology, neuroscience, and literature to offer a refreshing and persuasive view of expertise, according to which expert action generally is and ought to be thoughtful, effortful, and reflective. (shrink)
Mitchell: Could we begin by discussing the problem of public art? When we spoke a few weeks ago, you expressed some uneasiness with the notion of public art, and I wonder if you could expand on that a bit.Kruger: Well, you yourself lodged it as the “problem” of public art and I don’t really find it problematic inasmuch as I really don’t give it very much thought. I think on a broader level I could say that my “problem” is with (...) categorization and naming: how does one constitute art and how does one constitute a public? Sometimes I think that if architecture is a slab of meat, then so-called public art is a piece of garnish laying next to it. It has a kind of decorative function. Now I’m not saying that it always has to be that way—at all—and I think perhaps that many of my colleagues are working to change that now. But all too often, it seems the case.Mitchell: Do you think of your own art, insofar as it’s engaged with the commercial public sphere—that is, with advertising, publicity, mass media, and other technologies for influencing a consumer public—that it is automatically a form of public art? Or does it stand in opposition to public art?Kruger: I have a question for you: what is a public sphere which is an uncommercial public sphere? Barbara Kruger is an artist who works with words and pictures. W. J. T. Mitchell, editor of Critical Inquiry, is Gaylord Donnelly Distinguished Professor of English and art at the University of Chicago. (shrink)
In times of global economic and political crises, the notion of solidarity is gaining new currency. This book argues that a solidarity-based perspective can help us to find new ways to address pressing problems. Exemplified by three case studies from the field of biomedicine: databases for health and disease research, personalised healthcare, and organ donation, it explores how solidarity can make a difference in how we frame problems, and in the policy solutions that we can offer.
Dispositions are modal properties. The standard conception of dispositions holds that each disposition is individuated by its stimulus condition(s) and its manifestation(s), and that their modality is best captured by some conditional construction that relates stimulus to manifestation as antecedent to consequent. I propose an alternative conception of dispositions: each disposition is individuated by its manifestation alone, and its modality is closest to that of possibility — a fragile vase, for instance, is one that can break easily. The view is (...) expounded in some detail and defended against the major objections. (shrink)
Abilities are in many ways central to what being an agent means, and they are appealed to in philosophical accounts of a great many different phenomena. It is often assumed that abilities are some kind of dispositional property, but it is rarely made explicit exactly which dispositional properties are our abilities. Two recent debates provide two different answers to that question: the new dispositionalism in the debate about free will, and virtue reliabilism in epistemology. This paper argues that both answers (...) fail as general accounts of abilities, and discusses the ramifications of this result. (shrink)
This book provides everything administrators and teachers need to build service-learning programs that prepare students as engaged citizens committed to equity and justice. Cipolle describes practical strategies for classroom teachers along with the theoretical framework so readers can deftly move beyond the book to a meaningful program for their schools.
This essay reconstructs the career of the 18th-cetnury Neapolitan publicist Giuseppe Maria Galanti, who championed the genre of anthropological geography in the Kingdom of Naples. Although little attention has been paid to Galanti by the English-language historiography, the person and work of the Neapolitan publicist has loomed large in Italian studies on the Enlightenment. In landmark Italian studies, Galanti has been hailed as a clear-sighted reformer committed to the improvement of socioeconomic conditions within the Kingdom. Likewise, the geographical literature he (...) wrote has been read not as such but rather in light of its program of socioeconomic reform. However important that same program was, undue emphasis upon it has conflated his empirical approach to political geography with a connotation of realism that fundamentally has obscured the place of Galanti's project in the history of anthropology and, in particular, the emergence of European ethnography. By reconstructing the career of Galanti, it is my hope to provide a privileged window on what motivated a precocious ethnographer of Europe to undertake the unusual and arduous project of visiting and describing the provinces of his kingdom, on why he chose to conceptualize the terrain of the Kingdom as an object of philosophical study, and on how he understood his vocation in relation to the alternatives available to him as a man of Enlightenment. While bearing in mind the political aims of Galanti's work, this essay will also return it to the context in which it was first conceived and piloted—namely the ethos, epistemology, and professional culture of the human sciences of the Enlightenment city of Naples, which, it can be said, smacked of a Rousseauian contempt for the “civilization” of the capital, for its learned professions, and for the cosmopolitan theories of Europe's most urbane philosophes. (shrink)
It is a familiar point that many ordinary dispositions are multi-track, that is, not fully and adequately characterisable by a single conditional. In this paper, I argue that both the extent and the implications of this point have been severely underestimated. First, I provide new arguments to show that every disposition whose stimulus condition is a determinable quantity must be infinitely multi-track. Secondly, I argue that this result should incline us to move away from the standard assumption that dispositions are (...) in some way importantly linked to conditionals, as presupposed by the debate about various versions of the ‘conditional analysis’ of dispositions. I introduce an alternative conception of dispositionality, which is motivated by linguistic observations about dispositional adjectives and links dispositions to possibility instead of conditionals. I argue that, because of the multi-track nature of dispositions, the possibility-based conception of dispositions is to be preferred. (shrink)
According to essentialism, metaphysical modality is founded in the essences of things, where the essence of a thing is roughly akin to its real definition. According to potentialism, metaphysical modality is founded in the potentialities of things, where a potentiality is roughly the generalized notion of a disposition. Essentialism and potentialism have much in common, but little has been written about their relation to each other. The aim of this paper is to understand better the relations between essence and potentiality, (...) on the one hand, and between essentialism and potentialism, on the other. It is argued, first, that essence and potentiality are not duals but interestingly linked by a weaker relation dubbed ‘semi-duality’; second, that given this weaker relation, essentialism and potentialism are not natural allies but rather natural competitors; and third, that the semi-duality of essence and potentiality allows the potentialist to respond to an important explanatory challenge by using essentialist resources without thereby committing to essentialism. (shrink)
It is widely thought that focusing on highly skilled movements while performing them hinders their execution. Once you have developed the ability to tee off in golf, play an arpeggio on the piano, or perform a pirouette in ballet, attention to what your body is doing is thought to lead to inaccuracies, blunders, and sometimes even utter paralysis. Here I re-examine this view and argue that it lacks support when taken as a general thesis. Although bodily awareness may often interfere (...) with well-developed rote skills, like climbing stairs, I suggest that it is typically not detrimental to the skills of expert athletes, performing artists, and other individuals who endeavor to achieve excellence. Along the way, I present a critical analysis of some philosophical theories and behavioral studies on the relationship between attention and bodily movement, an explanation of why attention may be beneficial at the highest level of performance and an error theory that explains why many have thought the contrary. Though tentative, I present my view as a challenge to the widespread starting assumption in research on highly skilled movement that at the pinnacle of skill attention to one's movement is detrimental. (shrink)
Williamsonian modal epistemology is characterized by two commitments: realism about modality, and anti-exceptionalism about our modal knowledge. Williamson’s own counterfactual-based modal epistemology is the best known implementation of WME, but not the only option that is available. I sketch and defend an alternative implementation which takes our knowledge of metaphysical modality to arise, not from knowledge of counterfactuals, but from our knowledge of ordinary possibility statements of the form ‘x can F’. I defend this view against a criticism indicated in (...) Williamson’s own work, and argue that it is better connected to the semantics of modal language. (shrink)
This book introduces the most important problems of reference and considers the solutions that have been proposed to explain them. Reference is at the centre of debate among linguists and philosophers and, as Barbara Abbott shows, this has been the case for centuries. She begins by examining the basic issue of how far reference is a two place (words-world) or a three place (speakers-words-world) relation. She then discusses the main aspects of the field and the issues associated with them, (...) including those concerning proper names; direct reference and individual concepts; the difference between referential and quantificational descriptions; pronouns and indexicality; concepts like definiteness and strength; and noun phrases in discourse. Professor Abbott writes with exceptional verve and wit. She presupposes no technical knowledge or background and presents issues and analyses from first principles, illustrating them at every stage with well-chosen examples. Her book is addressed in the first place to advanced undergraduate and graduate students in linguistics and philosophy of language, but it will also appeal to students and practitioners in computational linguistics, cognitive psychology, and anthropology. All will welcome the clarity this guide brings to a subject that continues to challenge the leading thinkers of the age. (shrink)
Dispositionalists try to provide an account of modality—possibility, necessity, and the counterfactual conditional—in terms of dispositions. But there may be a tension between dispositionalist accounts of possibility on the one hand, and of counterfactuals on the other. Dispositionalists about possibility must hold that there are no impossible dispositions, i.e., dispositions with metaphysically impossible stimulus and/or manifestation conditions; dispositionalist accounts of counterfactuals, if they allow for non-vacuous counterpossibles, require that there are such impossible dispositions. I argue, first, that there are in (...) fact no impossible dispositions; and second, that the dispositionalist can nevertheless acknowledge the non-vacuity of some counterpossibles. The strategy in the second part is one of ‘divide and conquer’ that is not confined to the dispositionalist: it consists in arguing that counterpossibles, when non-vacuous, are read epistemically and are therefore outside the purview of a dispositional account. (shrink)
Cartesianism appeared inexorably to produce disparate theoretical tendencies inside itself, and Spinoza’s philosophy was one of the most outrageous and strangest result of those tendencies. This explains why so many Cartesians felt the urge to deal with the thought of the Dutch philosopher, from time to time labelled as ‘monism’, ‘pantheism’, or ‘atheism’. The case of Fénelon, the Quietist theologian, tutor of the Princes of France and brilliant Cartesian philosopher, highlights the difficulties of such an operation. The Archbishop of Cambrai (...) devotes not only various letters to the criticism of Spinoza, but even a whole section of the Démonstration de l’existence de Dieu – his most ambitious work, from a theoretical point of view. For apparently no reason, the Réfutation du spinozisme was inserted in the middle of the second part of the Démonstration, the more specifically philosophical section. This paper aims to show how Fénelon actually wanted to criticize Descartes’ radical tendencies by attacking them where they were to be found inside Spinoza, without directly compromising Cartesianism – or, first and foremost, his own ‘apologetic’ Cartesianism. (shrink)
Barbara Maria Stafford is at the forefront of a growing movement that calls for the humanities to confront the brain’s material realities. In _Echo Objects,_ she argues that humanists should seize upon the exciting neuroscientific discoveries that are illuminating the underpinnings of cultural objects. In turn, she contends, brain scientists could enrich their investigations of mental activity by incorporating phenomenological considerations—particularly the intricate ways that images focus intentional behavior and allow us to feel thought. As a result, _Echo Objects_ (...) is a stunningly broad exploration of how complex images—or patterns that compress space and time—make visible the invisible ordering of human consciousness. Stafford demonstrates, for example, how the compound formats of emblems, symbols, collage, and electronic media reveal the brain’s grappling to construct mental objects that are redoubled by prior associations. In contrast, she shows that findings in evolutionary biology and the neurosciences are providing profound opportunities for understanding aesthetic conundrums such as the human urge to imitate and the role of narrative and nonnarrative representation. Ultimately, she makes an impassioned plea for a common purpose—for the acknowledgement that, at the most basic level, these separate projects belong to a single investigation. “Heroic.... The larger message of Stafford’s intense, propulsive prose is unassailable. If we are to get much further in the great puzzle of ‘binding’—how the perception of an image, the will to act on intention, or the forging of consciousness is assembled from the tens of thousands of neurons firing at any one moment in time—then there needs to be action on all fronts.”—_Science_. (shrink)
This paper surveys recent "new actualist" approaches to modality that do without possible worlds and locate modality squarely in the actual world. New actualist theories include essentialism and dispositionalism about modality, each of which can come in different varieties. The commonalities and differences between these views, as well as their shared motivations, are layed out.
According to ecological psychology, animals perceive not just the qualities of things in their environment, but their affordances: in James Gibson’s words, ’what things furnish, for good or ill’. I propose a metaphysics for affordances that fits into a contemporary anti-Humean metaphysics of powers or potentialities. The goal is to connect two debates, one in the philosophy of perception and one in metaphysics, that stand to gain much from each other.
According to David Chalmers , 'we have good reason to suppose that consciousness has a fundamental place in nature' . This, he thinks is because the world as revealed to us by fundamental physics is entirely structural -- it is a world not of things, but of relations -- yet relations can only account for more relations, and consciousness is not merely a relation . Call this the 'structural argument against physicalism.' I shall argue that there is a view about (...) the relationship between mind and body, what I call, 'Russellian physicalism' that is consistent with the premises of the structural argument yet does not imply that consciousness is fundamental. (shrink)
This paper explores the prospects for dispositional accounts of abilities. According to so-called new dispositionalists, an agent has the ability to Φ iff they have a disposition to Φ when trying to Φ. We show that the new dispositionalism is beset by some problems that also beset its predecessor, the conditional analysis of abilities, and bring up some further problems. We then turn to a different approach, which links abilities not to motivational states but to the notion of success, and (...) consider ways of implementing that approach. Our results suggest that there are principled disanalogies between abilities and disposition which prevent any dispositional account of abilities from succeeding. (shrink)
This paper, which is based on an extensive analysis of the literature, gives a brief overview of the main ways in which solidarity has been employed in bioethical writings in the last two decades. As the vagueness of the term has been one of the main targets of critique, we propose a new approach to defining solidarity, identifying it primarily as a practice enacted at the interpersonal, communal, and contractual/legal levels. Our three-tier model of solidarity can also help to explain (...) the way in which crises of solidarity can occur, notably when formal solidaristic arrangements continue to exist despite ‘lower tiers’ of solidarity practices at inter-personal and communal levels having ‘broken away’. We hope that this contribution to the growing debate on the potential for the value of solidarity to help tackle issues in bioethics and beyond, will stimulate further discussion involving both conceptual and empirically informed perspectives. (shrink)