Diagrams have distinctive characteristics that make them an effective medium for communicating research findings, but they are even more impressive as tools for scientific reasoning. Focusing on circadian rhythm research in biology to explore these roles, we examine diagrammatic formats that have been devised to identify and illuminate circadian phenomena and to develop and modify mechanistic explanations of these phenomena.
Recent attempts to reconcile the ontic and epistemic approaches to explanation propose that our best explanations simply fulfill epistemic and ontic norms simultaneously. I aim to upset this armistice. Epistemic norms of attaining general and systematic explanations are, I argue, autonomous of ontic norms: they cannot be fulfilled simultaneously or in simple conjunction with ontic norms, and plausibly have priority over them. One result is that central arguments put forth by ontic theorists against epistemic theorists are revealed as not only (...) question-begging, but ultimately self-defeating. Another result is that a more nuanced reconciliation of the epistemic and ontic views is required: we should regard good explanatory practice as a dynamic process with distinct phases of epistemic and ontic success. (shrink)
Some proponents of mechanistic explanation downplay the significance of how-possibly explanations. We argue that developing accounts of mechanisms that could explain a phenomenon is an important aspect of scientific reasoning, one that involves imagination. Although appeals to imagination may seem to obscure the process of reasoning, we illustrate how, by examining diagrams we can gain insights into the construction of mechanistic explanations.
We explore the crucial role of diagrams in scientific reasoning, especially reasoning directed at developing mechanistic explanations of biological phenomena. We offer a case study focusing on one research project that resulted in a published paper advancing a new understanding of the mechanism by which the central circadian oscillator in Synechococcus elongatus controls gene expression. By examining how the diagrams prepared for the paper developed over the course of multiple drafts, we show how the process of generating a new explanation (...) vitally involved the development and integration of multiple versions of different types of diagrams, and how reasoning about the mechanism proceeded in tandem with the development of the diagrams used to represent it. (shrink)
I argue (1) that what (ontic) New Mechanistic philosophers of science call mechanisms would be material Gestalten, and (2) that Merleau-Ponty’s engagement with Gestalt theory can help us frame a standing challenge against ontic conceptions of mechanisms. In short, until the (ontic) New Mechanist can provide us with a plausible account of the organization of mechanisms as an objective feature of mind-independent ontic structures in the world which we might discover – and no ontic Mechanist has done so – it (...) is more conservative to claim that mechanistic organization is instead a mind-dependent aspect of our epistemic strategies of mechanistic explanation. (shrink)
Traditionally, identity and supervenience have been proposed in philosophy of mind as metaphysical accounts of how mental activities (fully understood, as they might be at the end of science) relate to brain processes. Kievet et al. suggest that to be relevant to cognitive neuroscience, these philosophical positions must make empirically testable claims and be evaluated accordingly – they cannot sit on the sidelines, awaiting the hypothetical completion of cognitive neuroscience. We agree with the authors on the importance of rendering these (...) positions relevant to ongoing science. We disagree, however, with their proposal that a metaphysical relationship (identity or supervenience) should “serve as a means to conceptually organize and guide the analysis of neurological and behavioral data” (p. 7). Instead, we advance a different view of the goals of cognitive neuroscience and of the proper means of relating metaphysics and explanation. Our central objection to the psychometric approach deployed by Kievet et al. is that the formal models only account for correlations between variables (measurements) and do not aid in explaining phenomena. Cognitive neuroscience is concerned with the latter. We develop this point in section 2 in which we present what we find to be problematic in their proposed models. In section 3 we advance an account of what is required to explain phenomena: (a) providing an adequate description of a phenomenon; and (b) characterizing the mechanism responsible for it. In doing so we will characterize a version of the identity theory, heuristic identity theory (HIT) which figures centrally in developing such explanations and illustrate its role in what we take to.. (shrink)
Husserl famously retracted his early portrayal, in Logische Untersuchungen, of phenomenology as empirical psychology. Previous scholarship has typically understood this transcendental turn in light of the Ideen’s revised conception of the ἐποχή, and its distinction between noesa and noemata. This essay thematizes the evolution of the concept of mental acts in Husserl’s work as a way of understanding the shift. I show how the recognition of the pure ego in Ideen I and II enabled Husserl to radically alter his conception (...) of mental acts, coming to understand them all in terms of genuine acts in a way that had been essentially precluded for descriptive psychologists so long as the pure ego was denied. This reading challenges a widespread assumption in the secondary literature that “mental act” is a merely technical term or misnomer. (shrink)
Scientists’ graphical practices have recently become a target of inquiry in the philosophy of science, and in the cognitive sciences. Here I supplement our understanding of graphical practices via a case study of how researchers crafted the graphics for scientific publication in the field of circadian biology. The case highlights social aspects of graphical production which have gone understudied e especially concerning the negotiation of publication. I argue that it also supports a challenge to the claim that empirically-informed “cognitive design (...) principles” offer an apt understanding of the norms of success which govern good scientific graphic design to communicate data and hypotheses to other experts. In this respect, the case-study also illustrates how “descriptive” studies of scientific practice can connect with normative issues in philosophy of science, thereby addressing a central concern in recent discussions of practice-oriented philosophy of science. (shrink)
In a recent article published in Ergo and entitled "Ontic explanation is either ontic or explanatory, but not both," Cory Wright and Dingmar van Eck have sought to undermine any ontic approach to explanation, providing three arguments to show that an epistemic approach is "the only game in town." I show that each of their arguments is straightforwardly question-begging. For brevity, I make my counter-arguments by showing how the claims of Sheredos (2016)-whom Wright & van Eck cite as an ally-undermine (...) each of their own arguments. The consumer update is: there is no new decisive argument against an ontic view, the epistemic view is not the only game in town, and reconciliation between the ontic and epistemic views remains possible. -/- . (shrink)
Understanding the “intentionality” of mental phenomena is widely regarded as a key problem in philosophy of mind. Franz Brentano (along with his students, especially Edmund Husserl) is widely credited with bringing intentionality to philosophers’ attention. In early treatment by the Brentano school, intentionality is at least nominally understood as executed, brought about, or achieved in mental acts. And in the early 20th century, historians of psychology regarded this “act conception” of intentionality as integral for understanding the phenomenon. Yet the secondary (...) literature on Brentano and Husserl provides no clarification of mental acts as acts, and in contemporary philosophy, we have no workable account of what it could mean for intentionality to arise through mental acts. The main difficulty is that “act” is widely regarded as synonymous with “volitional personal action.” Since we as human agents certainly do not willfully bring about much of our own mental life, and since (on the standard analyses) all such volition presupposes intentionality, it is a mystery to work out what the act conception of intentionality could have amounted to. This dissertation is a systematic explication of the historical act concept of intentionality. Part I examines Brentano. I show that his early work on Aristotle’s psychology provides resources to think coherently about many mental phenomena as acts, even if they are not personal actions. However, I also show that Brentano’s mature psychology is not Aristotelian, at least insofar as it does not (and cannot) deploy an Aristotelian conception of mental acts. Part II examines Husserl. I show that Husserl’s mature transcendental phenomenology works with a robust and many-layered conception of mental acts, and that understanding intentionality as active is essential to the phenomenological viewpoint. Moreover, I argue that Husserl’s conception of mental acts can be viewed as a transcendentalized, neo-Aristotelian view. The results will be of special interest to historians of philosophy, but also have a much broader significance. Husserl’s view provides us with a model of what can be called an “internalist enactivism.” Any view along these lines represents a novel position that has not been articulated (or even considered) in contemporary debates. (shrink)
Among philosophers of the emotions, it is common to view emotional content as purely descriptive – that is, belief-like or perception-like. I argue that this is a mistake. The intentionality of the emotions cannot be understood in isolation from their motivational character, and emotional content is also inherently directive – that is, desire-like. This view’s strength is its ability to explain a class of emotional behaviors that I argue, the common view fails to explain adequately. I claim that it is (...) already implicit in leading theories of emotion elicitation in cognitive psychology – “appraisal theories.” The result is a deeper understanding of emotional intentionality. Employing Peter Goldie’s “Feeling Theory” of the emotions as an example of the common view, I suggest that emotional feelings, too, should be understood on this model: emotional feelings toward items in the world cannot be disentangled from felt motivation. (shrink)
Biologists often hypothesize mechanisms to explai phenomena. Our interest is how their understanding of the phenomena and mechanisms develops as they construct diagrams to communicate their claims. We present two case studies in which scientists integrate various data to create a single diagram to communicate their major conclusions in a research publication. In both cases, the history of revisions suggests that scientists' initial drafts encode biases and oversights that are only gradually overcome through prolonged, reflective re-design. To account for this, (...) we suggest that scientists only develop a unitary understanding of their results through their attempts to communicate them. (shrink)
Derek Bolton has claimed that extant philosophical theories of mind imply accounts of mental disorder, via their accounts of intentionality. The purpose of this paper is to extend Bolton’s claims, by exploring what an embodied/situated theory of mind might imply about mental disorder. I argue that, unlike the more traditional views Bolton considers, embodied/situated accounts can (in principle) provide an observer-independent criterion for distinguishing mental health from disorder in cases of Capgras and Cotard delusions.