This book argues that the novelist Joseph Conrad's work speaks directly to us in a way that none of his contemporaries can. Conrad’s scepticism, pessimism, emphasis on the importance and fragility of community, and the difficulties of escaping our history are important tools for understanding the political world in which we live. He is prepared to face a future where progress is not inevitable, where actions have unintended consequences, and where we cannot know the contexts in which we act. _Heart (...) of Darkness_ uncovers the rotten core of the Eurocentric myth of imperialism as a way of bringing enlightenment to 'native peoples’ – lessons which are relevant once more as the Iraq debacle has undermined the claims of liberal democracy to universal significance. The result can hardly be called a political programme, but Conrad’s work is clearly suggestive of a sceptical conservatism of the sort described by the author in his 2005 book _After Blair: Conservatism Beyond Thatcher_. The difficult part of a Conradian philosophy is the profundity of his pessimism – far greater than Oakeshott, with whom Conrad does share some similarities. Conrad’s work poses the question of how far we as a society are prepared to face the consequences of our ignorance. (shrink)
In recent work MacPherson argues that the standard method of modeling belief logically, as a necessity operator in a modal logic, is doomed to fail. The problem with normal modal logics as logics of belief is that they treat believers as "ideal" in unrealistic ways (i.e., as omnidoxastic); however, similar problems re-emerge for candidate non-normal logics. The authors argue that logics used to model belief in artificial intelligence (AI) are also flawed in this way. But for AI systems, omnidoxasticity is (...) impossible because of their finite nature, and this fact can be exploited to produce operational models of fallible belief. The relevance of this point to various philosophical views about belief is discussed. (shrink)
Social machines are a prominent focus of attention for those who work in the field of Web and Internet science. Although a number of online systems have been described as social machines, there is, as yet, little consensus as to the precise meaning of the term “social machine.” This presents a problem for the scientific study of social machines, especially when it comes to the provision of a theoretical framework that directs, informs, and explicates the scientific and engineering activities of (...) the social machine community. The present paper outlines an approach to understanding social machines that draws on recent work in the philosophy of science, especially work in so-called mechanical philosophy. This is what might be called a mechanistic view of social machines. According to this view, social machines are systems whose phenomena are explained via an appeal to socio-technical mechanisms. We show how this account is able to accommodate a number of existing attempts to define the social machine concept, thereby yielding an important opportunity for theoretical integration. (shrink)
The growth of information acquisition, storage and retrieval capacity has led to the development of the practice of lifelogging, the undiscriminating collection of information concerning one’s life and behaviour. There are potential problems in this practice, but equally it could be empowering for the individual, and provide a new locus for the construction of an online identity. In this paper we look at the technological possibilities and constraints for lifelogging tools, and set out some of the most important privacy, identity (...) and empowerment-related issues. We argue that some of the privacy concerns are overblown, and that much research and commentary on lifelogging has made the unrealistic assumption that the information gathered is for private use, whereas, in a more socially-networked online world, much of it will have public functions and will be voluntarily released into the public domain. (shrink)
This paper explores the concept of digital modernity, the extension of narratives of modernity with the special affordances of digital networked technology. Digital modernity produces a new narrative which can be taken in many ways: to be descriptive of reality; a teleological account of an inexorable process; or a normative account of an ideal sociotechnical state. However, it is understood that narratives of digital modernity help shape reality via commercial and political decision-makers, and examples are given from the politics and (...) society of the United Kingdom. The paper argues that digital modernity has two dimensions, of progression through time and progression through space, and these two dimensions can be in contradiction. Contradictions can also be found between ideas of digital modernity and modernity itself, and also between digital modernity and some of the basic pre-modern concepts that underlie the whole technology industry. Therefore, digital modernity may not be a sustainable goal for technology development. (shrink)
Neither our evolutionary past, nor our pre-literate culture, has prepared humanity for the use of technology to provide records of the past, records which in many context become normative for memory. The demand that memory be true, rather than useful or pleasurable, has changed our social and psychological under-standing of ourselves and our fellows. The current vogue for lifelogging, and the rapid proliferation of digital memory-supporting technologies, may accelerate this change, and create dilemmas for policymakers, designers and social thinkers.
A new layer of complexity, constituted of networks of information token recurrence, has been identified in socio-technical systems such as the Wikipedia online community and the Zooniverse citizen science platform. The identification of this complexity reveals that our current understanding of the actual structure of those systems, and consequently the structure of the entire World Wide Web, is incomplete, which raises novel questions for data science research but also from the perspective of social epistemology. Here we establish the principled foundations (...) and practical advantages of analyzing information diffusion within and across Web systems with Transcendental Information Cascades, and outline resulting directions for future study in the area of socio-technical systems. We also suggest that Transcendental Information Cascades may be applicable to any kind of time-evolving system that can be observed using digital technologies, and that the structures found in such systems comprise properties common to all naturally occurring complex systems. (shrink)
A conceptual analysis of trust in terms of trustworthiness is set out, where trustworthiness is the property of an agent that she does what she claims she will do, and trust is an attitude taken by an agent to another, that the former believes that the latter is trustworthy. This analysis is then used to explore issues in the deployment of trustworthy digital systems online. The ideas of a series of philosophers from the Enlightenment – Hobbes, Burke, Rousseau, Hume, Smith (...) and Kant – are examined in the light of this exploration to suggest how we might proceed in the Digital Enlightenment to ensure that systems are both trustworthy and trusted. (shrink)
The paper attempts to establish the importance of addressing what Chalmers calls the ‘easy problems’ of consciousness, at the expense of the ‘hard problem’. One pragmatic argument and two philosophical arguments are presented to defend this approach to consciousness, and three major theories of consciousness are criticized in this light. Finally, it is shown that concentration on the easy problems does not lead to eliminativism with respect to consciousness.
Motivated by the significant amount of successful collaborative problem solving activity on the Web, we ask: Can the accumulated information propagation behavior on the Web be conceived as a giant machine, and reasoned about accordingly? In this paper we elaborate a thesis about the computational capability embodied in information sharing activities that happen on the Web, which we term socio-technical computation, reflecting not only explicitly conditional activities but also the organic potential residing in information on the Web.
In the eighteenth century the category of the aesthetic sought to bridge the gap between the prevalent dualities of Cartesian thought: art and science, history and science, prejudice and truth. This special issue of _boundary 2_ addresses current debates about the status of art in the context of global modernity. The range of arguments represented here cover a broad historical scope—from Cartesianism to present-day global modernity—of cultural discourse on the aesthetic to bring a focus to contemporary discussions of the corollary (...) concepts of beauty, virtue, taste, and truth. These essays present a rich and provocative account of the place of the aesthetic in late-twentieth-century culture. Included in this volume are considerations of the relation between theories of art and the avant-garde; art’s relation to cognition; the aesthetic as history; the aesthetic as a unique access to modernity; and its impact on problems of identity formation, ideology, and resistances to the institutional powers inherent in dominant social formations. _Contributors. _Charles Altieri, Peter Burger, David Carroll, Anthony J. Cascardi, Howard Caygill, Allen Dunn, Eric Gans, Agnes Heller, Ronald A. T. Judy, Marie-Rose Logan, Daniel T. O’Hara, Donald E. Pease, Alan Singer. (shrink)
A one-to-one correspondence is established between linearized space-time metrics of general relativity and the wave equations of quantum mechanics. Also, the key role of boundary conditions in distinguishing quantum mechanics from classical mechanics, will emerge naturally from the procedure. Finally, we will find that the methodology will enable us to introduce not only test charges but also test masses by means of gauges.
_Transcendent Teacher Learner Relationships: The Way of the Shamanic Teacher _ explores the nature of the transcendent teacher learner relationship and precisely how such relationships of warmth, safety, mutual care, mutual respect and mutual trust are developed and maintained.
The Logic of Human Personality shows how the ancient definition of person remains useful today, and explains how it happened to fall into disuse. The method of using the categories of Aristotle is illustrated by showing how action, relation, and time as well as the fundamental category of substance, can help us understand what it is to be a person. The Logic of Human Personality agrues, against Mill and others who have found Aristotle's categories unsatisfactory, that in fact they are (...) useful for much psychological and anthropological research today, particularly in the intercultural field. (shrink)
This chapter compares the social behaviour of human hunter-gatherers with that of the better-studied chimpanzee species, Pan troglodytes, in an attempt to pinpoint the unique features of human social evolution. Although hunter-gatherers and chimpanzees living in central Africa have similar body weights, humans live at much lower population densities due to their greater dependence on predation. Human foraging parties have longer duration than those of chimpanzees, lasting hours rather than minutes, and a higher level of mutual dependence, through the division (...) of labour between men and women ; which is in turn related to pair-bonding, and meat sharing to reduce the risk of individual hunters' failure on any particular day. The band appears to be a uniquely human social unit that resolves the tension between greater dispersion and greater interdependence. (shrink)
Discussions of the theory and practice of systematics and evolutionary biology have heretofore revolved around the views of philosophers of science. I reexamine these issues from the different perspective of the philosophy of history. Just as philosophers of history distinguish between chronicle (non-interpretive or non-explanatory writing) and narrative history (interpretive or explanatory writing), I distinguish between evolutionary chronicle (cladograms, broadly construed) and narrative evolutionary history. Systematics is the discipline which estimates the evolutionary chronicle. ¶ Explanations of the events described in (...) the evolutionary chronicle are not of the covering-law type described by philosophers of science, but rather of the how-possibly, continuous series, and integrating types described by philosophers of history. Pre-evolutionary explanations of states (in contrast to chroniclar events) are still widespread in "evolutionary" biology, however, because evolutionary chronicles are in general poorly known. To the extent that chronicles are known, the narrative evolutionary histories based on them are structured like conventional historical narratives, in that they treat their central subjects as ontological individuals. This conventional treatment is incorrect. The central subjects of evolutionary narratives are clades, branched entities which have some of the properties of individuals and some of the properties of classes. Our unconscious treatment of the subjects of evolutionary narratives as individuals has been the cause of erroneous notions of progress in evolution, and of views that taxa "develop" ontogenetically in ways analogous to individual organisms. We must rewrite our narrative evolutionary histories so that they properly represent the branching nature of evolution, and we must reframe our evolutionary philosophies so that they properly reflect the historical nature of our subject. (shrink)
In this, the first Reader of Geoffrey Hartman's work, significant essays reflect his abiding interest in English and American poetry, focusing not only on Romanticism but also on the transition from early modern to modern and including reflections on the radical elements in artistic representation.
Two new modes of thinking have spread through systematics in the twentieth century. Both have deep historical roots, but they have been widely accepted only during this century. Population thinking overtook the field in the early part of the century, culminating in the full development of population systematics in the 1930s and 1940s, and the subsequent growth of the entire field of population biology. Population thinking rejects the idea that each species has a natural type (as the earlier essentialist view (...) had assumed), and instead sees every species as a varying population of interbreeding individuals. Tree thinking has spread through the field since the 1960s with the development of phylogenetic systematics. Tree thinking recognizes that species are not independent replicates within a class (as earlier group thinkers had tended to see them), but are instead interconnected parts of an evolutionary tree. It lays emphasis on the explanation of evolutionary events in the context of a tree, rather than on the states exhibited by collections of species, and it sees evolutionary history as a story of divergence rather than a story of development. Just as population thinking gave rise to the new field of population biology, so tree thinking is giving rise to the new field of phylogenetic biology. (shrink)
William Whewell (1794–1866), polymathic Victorian scientist, philosopher, historian, and educator, was one of the great neologists of the nineteenth century. Although Whewell's name is little remembered today except by professional historians and philosophers of science, researchers in many scientific fields work each day in a world that Whewell named. "Miocene" and "Pliocene," "uniformitarian" and "catastrophist," "anode" and "cathode," even the word "scientist" itself—all of these were Whewell coinages. Whewell is particularly important to students of the historical sciences for another word (...) he coined, one that was unfortunately not as successful as many of his others because it is difficult to pronounce. This word, "palaetiology," was the name Whewell gave to the class of sciences that are concerned with historical causation: the class we might today refer to as historical sciences. Although the disciplines Whewell included under the heading of palaetiology might seem to cut across conventional academic boundaries of his day and ours—his exemplary palaetiological sciences were geology and comparative philology—all these fields may be examined together, Whewell argued, because of their common interest in reconstructing the past. ¶ This paper is an essay in the palaetiological sciences, dedicated to Whewell on the bicentennial of his birth, an essay that examines some of the principles, maxims, and rules of procedure that these sciences have all in common. Its first purpose is to demonstrate the continuing validity of Whewell's classification of these sciences through a study of historical representation in three different palaetiological fields: systematics, historical linguistics, and textual transmission. Its second purpose is to continue the development of an extended analogy between historical representation and cartographic representation that I began in an earlier paper (O'Hara, 1993, Systematic Biology), an analogy that makes especially clear the common representational practices that are found throughout palaetiology. (shrink)
Accounts of the evolutionary past have as much in common with works of narrative history as they do with works of science. Awareness of the narrative character of evolutionary writing leads to the discovery of a host of fascinating and hitherto unrecognized problems in the representation of evolutionary history, problems associated with the writing of narrative. These problems include selective attention, narrative perspective, foregrounding and backgrounding, differential resolution, and the establishment of a canon of important events. The narrative aspects of (...) evolutionary writing, however, which promote linearity and cohesiveness in conventional stories, conflict with the underlying chronicle of evolution, which is not linear, but branched, and which does not cohere, but diverges. The impulse to narrate is so great, however, and is so strongly reinforced by traditional schemes of taxonomic attention, that natural historians have more often abandoned the diverging tree than they have abandoned the narrative mode of representation. If we are to understand the true nature of the evolutionary past then we must adopt tree thinking, and develop new and creative ways, both narrative and non-narrative, of telling the history of life. (shrink)