Scientists and philosophers frequently speak about levels of description, levels of explanation, and ontological levels. In this paper, I propose a unified framework for modelling levels. I give a general definition of a system of levels and show that it can accommodate descriptive, explanatory, and ontological notions of levels. I further illustrate the usefulness of this framework by applying it to some salient philosophical questions: (1) Is there a linear hierarchy of levels, with (...) a fundamental level at the bottom? And what does the answer to this question imply for physicalism, the thesis that everything supervenes on the physical? (2) Are there emergent properties? (3) Are higher-level descriptions reducible to lower-level ones? (4) Can the relationship between normative and non-normative domains be viewed as one involving levels? Although I use the terminology of “levels”, the proposed framework can also represent “scales”, “domains”, or “subject matters”, where these are not linearly but only partially ordered by relations of supervenience or inclusion. (shrink)
The interventionist account of causal explanation, in the version presented by Jim Woodward, has been recently claimed capable of buttressing the widely felt—though poorly understood—hunch that high-level, relatively abstract explanations, of the sort provided by sciences like biology, psychology and economics, are in some cases explanatorily optimal. It is the aim of this paper to show that this is mistaken. Due to a lack of effective constraints on the causal variables at the heart of the interventionist causal-explanatory scheme, as presently (...) formulated it is either unable to prefer high-level explanations to low, or systematically overshoots, recommending explanations at so high of a level as to be virtually vacuous. (shrink)
The idea of levels of organization plays a central role in the philosophy of the life sciences. In this article, I first examine the explanatory goals that have motivated accounts of levels of organization. I then show that the most state-of-the-art and scientifically plausible account of levels of organization, the account of levels of mechanism proposed by Bechtel and Craver, is fundamentally problematic. Finally, I argue that the explanatory goals can be reached by adopting a deflationary (...) approach, where levels of organization give way to more well-defined and fundamental notions, such as scale and composition. (shrink)
Scientists and philosophers frequently speak about levels of description, levels of explanation, and ontological levels. This paper presents a framework for studying levels. I give a general definition of a system of levels and discuss several applications, some of which refer to descriptive or explanatory levels while others refer to ontological levels. I illustrate the usefulness of this framework by bringing it to bear on some familiar philosophical questions. Is there a hierarchy of (...)levels, with a fundamental level at the bottom? And what does the answer to this question imply for physicalism, the thesis that everything supervenes on the physical? Are there emergent higher-level properties? Are higher-level descriptions reducible to lower-level ones? Can the relationship between normative and non-normative domains be viewed as one involving levels? And might a levelled framework shed light on the relationship between third-personal and first-personal phenomena? (shrink)
A common argument against explanatory reductionism is that higher‐level explanations are sometimes or always preferable because they are more general than reductive explanations. Here I challenge two basic assumptions that are needed for that argument to succeed. It cannot be assumed that higher‐level explanations are more general than their lower‐level alternatives or that higher‐level explanations are general in the right way to be explanatory. I suggest a novel form of pluralism regarding levels of explanation, according to which explanations at (...) different levels are preferable in different circumstances because they offer different types of generality, which are appropriate in different circumstances of explanation. (shrink)
We sketch the mechanistic approach to levels, contrast it with other senses of “level,” and explore some of its metaphysical implications. This perspective allows us to articulate what it means for things to be at different levels, to distinguish mechanistic levels from realization relations, and to describe the structure of multilevel explanations, the evidence by which they are evaluated, and the scientific unity that results from them. This approach is not intended to solve all metaphysical problems surrounding (...) physicalism. Yet it provides a framework for thinking about how the macroscopic phenomena of our world are or might be related to its most fundamental entities and activities. (shrink)
According to Critical-Level Views in population axiology, an extra life improves a population only if that life’s welfare exceeds some fixed ‘critical level.’ An extra life at the critical level leaves the new population equally good as the original. According to Critical-Range Views, an extra life improves a population only if that life’s welfare exceeds some fixed ‘critical range.’ An extra life within the critical range leaves the new population incommensurable with the original. -/- In this paper, I sharpen some (...) old objections to these views and offer some new ones. Critical-Level Views cannot avoid certain Repugnant and Sadistic Conclusions. Critical-Range Views imply that lives featuring no good or bad components whatsoever can nevertheless swallow up and neutralise goodness or badness. Both classes of view entail that certain small changes in welfare correspond to worryingly large differences in contributive value. -/- I then offer a view that retains much of the appeal of Critical-Level and Critical-Range Views while avoiding the above pitfalls. On the Imprecise Exchange Rates View, the quantity of some good required to outweigh a given unit of some bad is imprecise. This imprecision is the source of incommensurability between lives and populations. (shrink)
Philosophers and non-philosophers have been attracted to the idea that the world incorporates levels of being: higher-level items – ordinary objects, artifacts, human beings – depend on, but are not in any sense reducible to, items at lower levels. I argue that the motivation for levels stems from an implicit acceptance of a Picture Theory of language according to which we can ‘read off’ features of the world from ways we describe the world. Abandonment of the Picture (...) Theory opens the way to a ‘no levels’ conception of reality, a conception that honors anti-reductionist sentiments and preserves the status of the special sciences without the ontological baggage. (shrink)
In this paper Wimsatt's analysis of units of selection is taken as defining the units of selection question. A definition of levels of selection is offered and it is shown that the levels of selection question is quite different from the units of selection question. Some of the relations between units and levels are briefly explored. It is argued that the levels of selection question is the question relevant to explanatory concerns, and it is suggested that (...) it is the question relevant to ontological concerns. (shrink)
Levels of organization are structures in nature, usually defined by part-whole relationships, with things at higher levels being composed of things at the next lower level. Typical levels of organization that one finds in the literature include the atomic, molecular, cellular, tissue, organ, organismal, group, population, community, ecosystem, landscape, and biosphere levels. References to levels of organization and related hierarchical depictions of nature are prominent in the life sciences and their philosophical study, and appear not (...) only in introductory textbooks and lectures, but also in cutting-edge research articles and reviews. In philosophy, perennial debates such as reduction, emergence, mechanistic explanation, interdisciplinary relations, natural selection, and many other topics, also rely substantially on the notion. -/- Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the notion, levels of organization have received little explicit attention in biology or its philosophy. Usually they appear in the background as an implicit conceptual framework that is associated with vague intuitions. Attempts at providing general and broadly applicable definitions of levels of organization have not met wide acceptance. In recent years, several authors have put forward localized and minimalistic accounts of levels, and others have raised doubts about the usefulness of the notion as a whole. -/- There are many kinds of ‘levels’ that one may find in philosophy, science, and everyday life—the term is notoriously ambiguous. Besides levels of organization, there are levels of abstraction, realization, being, analysis, processing, theory, science, complexity, and many others. In this article, the focus will be on levels of organization and debates associated with them, and other kinds of levels will only be discussed when they are relevant to this main topic. (shrink)
The notion of levels has been widely used in discussions of cognitive science, especially in discussions of the relation of connectionism to symbolic modeling of cognition. I argue that many of the notions of levels employed are problematic for this purpose, and develop an alternative notion grounded in the framework of mechanistic explanation. By considering the source of the analogies underlying both symbolic modeling and connectionist modeling, I argue that neither is likely to provide an adequate analysis of (...) processes at the level at which cognitive theories attempt to function: One is drawn from too low a level, the other from too high a level. If there is a distinctly cognitive level, then we still need to determine what are the basic organizational principles at that level. (shrink)
The notion of a level of consciousness is a key construct in the science of consciousness. Not only is the term employed to describe the global states of consciousness that are associated with post-comatose disorders, epileptic absence seizures, anaesthesia, and sleep, it plays an increasingly influential role in theoretical and methodological contexts. However, it is far from clear what precisely a level of consciousness is supposed to be. This paper argues that the levels-based framework for conceptualizing global states of (...) consciousness is untenable and develops in its place a multidimensional account of global states. (shrink)
What is the correct procedure for determining the contents of perception? Philosophers tackling this question increasingly rely on empirically-oriented procedures in order to reach an answer. I argue that this constitutes an improvement over the armchair methodology constitutive of phenomenal contrast cases, but that there is a crucial respect in which current empirical procedures remain limited: they are unimodal in nature, wrongly treating the senses as isolatable faculties. I thus have two aims: first, to motivate a reorientation of the admissible (...) contents debate into a multimodal framework, charting its various significances. The second is to explore whether any experimental studies of multimodal perception support a so-called Liberal (or ‘high-level’ or ‘rich’) account of perception’s admissible contents. I conclude that the McGurk effect and the ventriloquist effect are both explicable without the postulation of high-level content, but that at least one multimodal experimental paradigm may necessitate such content: the rubber hand illusion. One upshot of this argument is that Conservatives who claim that the Liberal view intolerably broadens the scope of perceptual illusions, particularly from the perspective of perceptual psychology, should pursue other arguments against that view. (shrink)
"Equality of opportunity for all" is a fine piece of political rhetoric but the ideal that lies behind it is slippery to say the least. This book defends a particular account of the ideal and its place in a more radical version of what it is to level the playing field.
The Levelling-Down Objection is a standard objection to monistic egalitarian theories where equality is the only thing that has intrinsic value. Most egalitarians, however, are value pluralists; they hold that, in addition to equality being intrinsically valuable, the egalitarian currency in which we are equal or unequal is also intrinsically valuable. In this paper, I shall argue that the Levelling-Down Objection still minimizes the weight that the intrinsic badness of inequality could have in the overall intrinsic evaluation of outcomes, given (...) a certain way of measuring the badness of inequality, namely, the Additive Individual-Complaints Measure. (shrink)
When do children become aware of themselves as differentiated and unique entity in the world? When and how do they become self-aware? Based on some recent empirical evidence, 5 levels of self-awareness are presented and discussed as they chronologically unfold from the moment of birth to approximately 4-5 years of age. A natural history of children's developing self-awareness is proposed as well as a model of adult self-awareness that is informed by the dynamic of early development. Adult self-awareness is (...) viewed as the dynamic flux between basic levels of consciousness that develop chronologically early in life. (shrink)
The use of “levels of abstraction” in philosophical analysis (levelism) has recently come under attack. In this paper, I argue that a refined version of epistemological levelism should be retained as a fundamental method, called the method of levels of abstraction. After a brief introduction, in section “Some Definitions and Preliminary Examples” the nature and applicability of the epistemological method of levels of abstraction is clarified. In section “A Classic Application of the Method ofion”, the philosophical fruitfulness (...) of the new method is shown by using Kant’s classic discussion of the “antinomies of pure reason” as an example. In section “The Philosophy of the Method of Abstraction”, the method is further specified and supported by distinguishing it from three other forms of “levelism”: (i) levels of organisation; (ii) levels of explanation and (iii) conceptual schemes. In that context, the problems of relativism and antirealism are also briefly addressed. The conclusion discusses some of the work that lies ahead, two potential limitations of the method and some results that have already been obtained by applying the method to some long-standing philosophical problems. (shrink)
According to Dr. Clare Graves, mankind has developed eight core value systems,1 as responses to prevailing circumstances. Given different contexts and value systems, a one-solution-fits-all concept of corporate sustainability is not reasonable. Therefore, this paper presents various definitions and forms of sustainability, each linked to specific (societal) circumstances and related value systems. A sustainability matrix– an essential element of the overall European Corporate Sustainability Framework – is described showing six types of organizations at different developmental stages, with different forms of (...) corporate sustainability, each supported by specific institutional arrangements. (shrink)
I show that the recent account of levels in neuroscience proposed by Craver and Bechtel is unsatisfactory since it fails to provide a plausible criterion for being at the same level and is incompatible with Craver and Bechtel’s account of downward causation. Furthermore, I argue that no distinct notion of levels is needed for analyzing explanations and causal issues in neuroscience: it is better to rely on more well-defined notions such as composition and scale. One outcome of this (...) is that apparent cases of downward causation can be analyzed away. (shrink)
The idea of a higher level phenomenon having a downward causal influence on a lower level process or entity has taken a variety of forms. In order to discuss the relation between emergence and downward causation, the specific variety of the thesis of downward causation (DC) must be identified. Based on some ontological theses about inter-level relations, types of causation and the possibility of reduction, three versions of DC are distinguished. Of these, the `Strong' form of DC is held to (...) be in conflict with contemporary science; the `Medium' version of DC may for instance describe thoughts constraining neurophysiological states, while the `Weak' form of DC is physically acceptable but may not in practice be a feasible description of the mind/brain or the cell/molecule relation. All forms have their specific problems, but the Medium and the Weak version seems to be most promising. (shrink)
Does natural selection act primarily on individual organisms, on groups, on genes, or on whole species? The question of levels of selection - on which biologists and philosophers have long disagreed - is central to evolutionary theory and to the philosophy of biology. Samir Okasha's comprehensive analysis gives a clear account of the philosophical issues at stake in the current debate.
The current orthodoxy on mental representation can be characterized in terms of three central ideas. The -rst is ontological, the second semantic, and the third methodological. The ontological tenet is that mental representation is a two-place relation holding between a representing state and a represented entity (object, event, state of a.airs). The semantic tenet is that the relation in question is probably information-theoretic at heart, perhaps augmented teleologically, functionally, or teleo-functionally to cope with di/cult cases. The methodological tenet is that (...) mental representations are posited solely on third-person explanatory grounds. In this paper, I argue that this picture of mental representation is satisfactory only as an account of mental representation at the sub-personal level. It is unsatisfactory, in a principled way, as an account of mental representation at the personal level. (shrink)
In its origins educational neuroscience has started as an endeavor to discuss implications of neuroscience studies for education. However, it is now on its way to become a transdisciplinary field, incorporating findings, theoretical frameworks and methodologies from education, and cognitive and brain sciences. Given the differences and diversity in the originating disciplines, it has been a challenge for educational neuroscience to integrate both theoretical and methodological perspective in education and neuroscience in a coherent way. We present a multi-level framework for (...) educational neuroscience, which argues for integration of multiple levels of analysis, some originating in brain and cognitive sciences, others in education, as a roadmap for the future of educational neuroscience with concrete examples in moral education. (shrink)
Debates over what is fundamental assume that what is most fundamental must be either a “top” level (roughly, the biggest or highest-level thing), or a “bottom” level (roughly, the smallest or lowest-level things). Here I sketch an alternative to top-ism and bottom-ism, the view that a middle level could be the most fundamental, and argue for its plausibility. I then suggest that the view satisfies the desiderata of asymmetry, irreflexivity, transitivity, and well-foundedness of fundamentality, that the view has explanatory power (...) on par with that of top-ism and bottom-ism, and that it satisfies the Principle of Sufficient Reason. (shrink)
Recently, several theorists have proposed that we can perceive a range of high-level features, including natural kind features (e.g., being a lemur), artifactual features (e.g., being a mandolin), and the emotional features of others (e.g., being surprised). I clarify the claim that we perceive high-level features and suggest one overlooked reason this claim matters: it would dramatically expand the range of actions perception-based theories of action might explain. I then describe the influential phenomenal contrast method of arguing for high-level perception (...) and discuss some of the objections that have been raised against this strategy. Finally, I describe two emerging defenses of high-level perception, one of which appeals to a certain class of perceptual deficits and one of which appeals to adaptation effects. I sketch a challenge for the latter approach. (shrink)
This paper is an essay in counterfactual epistemology. What if experience have high-level contents, to the effect that something is a lemon or that someone is sad? I survey the consequences for epistemology of such a scenario, and conclude that many of the striking consequences could be reached even if our experiences don't have high-level contents.
In recent literature on plurals the claim has often been made that the move from singular to plural expressions can be iterated, generating what are occasionally called higher-level plurals or superplurals, often correlated with superplural predicates. I argue that the idea that the singular-to-plural move can be iterated is questionable. I then show that the examples and arguments intended to establish that some expressions of natural language are in some sense higher-level plurals fail. Next, I argue that these and some (...) other expressions should instead be classified as plurals whose reference is articulated, an idea explained and elaborated in the paper. I also show that the related categories of plural and superplural predicates collapse to that of ordinary predicates. In the process we also see that the law of substitutivity salva veritate should be elaborated for cases involving expressions more complex than singular ones. (shrink)
Mental representation has long been central to standard accounts of action and cognition generally, and in the context of sport. We argue for an enactive and embodied account that rejects the idea that representation is necessary for cognition, and posit instead that cognition arises, or is enacted, in certain types of interactions between organisms and their environment. More specifically, we argue that enactive theories explain some kinds of high-level cognition, those that underlie some of the best performances in sport and (...) similar practices, better than representational accounts. Flow and mushin are explained enactively to this end. This results in a mutually beneficial analysis where enactivism offers theoretical and practical advantages as an explanation of high performance in sports, while the latter validates enactivism. (shrink)
In this paper, we develop a novel response to counterfactual scepticism, the thesis that most ordinary counterfactual claims are false. In the process we aim to shed light on the relationship between debates in the philosophy of science and debates concerning the semantics and pragmatics of counterfactuals. We argue that science is concerned with many domains of inquiry, each with its own characteristic entities and regularities; moreover, statements of scientific law often include an implicit ceteris paribus clause that restricts the (...) scope of the associated regularity to circumstances that are ‘fitting’ to the domain in question. This observation reveals a way of responding to scepticism while, at the same time, doing justice both to the role of counterfactuals in science and to the complexities inherent in ordinary counterfactual discourse and reasoning. (shrink)
This paper will outline a novel semantics of verbs of saying and of quotation based on Austin’s (1962) distinction among levels of linguistic acts (illocutionary, locutionary, rhetic, phatic, and phonetic acts). It will propose a way of understanding the notion of a rhetic act and argue that it is well-reflected in the semantics of natural language. The paper will furthermore outline a novel, unified and compositional semantics of quotation which is guided by two ideas. First, quotations convey properties related (...) to lower-level (phonetic or phatic) linguistic acts; second, such meanings of quotations are strictly based on syntactic structure, namely a lower-level (phonetic, phonological or morpho-syntactic) structure as part of the syntactic structure that is input to semantic interpretation. Such lower-level linguistic structures will contribute properties of utterances, to the semantic composition of the sentence, in one way or another. (shrink)
Is the societal-level of analysis sufficient today to understand the values of those in the global workforce? Or are individual-level analyses more appropriate for assessing the influence of values on ethical behaviors across country workforces? Using multi-level analyses for a 48-society sample, we test the utility of both the societal-level and individual-level dimensions of collectivism and individualism values for predicting ethical behaviors of business professionals. Our values-based behavioral analysis indicates that values at the individual-level make a more significant contribution to (...) explaining variance in ethical behaviors than do values at the societal-level. Implicitly, our findings question the soundness of using societal-level values measures. Implications for international business research are discussed. (shrink)
It is the aim of this paper to develop and defend an interpretation of level of scientific discipline within the truth-maker framework. In particular, I exploit the mereological relation of proper parthood, which is integral to truth-maker semantics, in order to provide an account of scientific level.
Dominic Scott compares the Republic and Nicomachean Ethics from a methodological perspective. He argues that Plato and Aristotle distinguish similar levels of argument in the defence of justice, and that they both follow the same approach: Plato because he thinks it will suffice, Aristotle because he thinks there is no need to go beyond it.
Debates concerning the units and levels of selection have persisted for over fifty years. One major question in this literature is whether units and levels of selection are genuine, in the sense that they are objective features of the world, or merely reflect the interests and goals of an observer. Scientists and philosophers have proposed a range of answers to this question. This Element introduces this literature and proposes a novel contribution. It defends a realist stance and offers (...) a way of delineating genuine levels of selection by invoking the notion of a functional unit. (shrink)
An important lesson that philosophy can learn from the Turing Test and computer science more generally concerns the careful use of the method of Levels of Abstraction (LoA). In this paper, the method is first briefly summarised. The constituents of the method are “observables”, collected together and moderated by predicates restraining their “behaviour”. The resulting collection of sets of observables is called a “gradient of abstractions” and it formalises the minimum consistency conditions that the chosen abstractions must satisfy. Two (...) useful kinds of gradient of abstraction – disjoint and nested – are identified. It is then argued that in any discrete (as distinct from analogue) domain of discourse, a complex phenomenon may be explicated in terms of simple approximations organised together in a gradient of abstractions. Thus, the method replaces, for discrete disciplines, the differential and integral calculus, which form the basis for understanding the complex analogue phenomena of science and engineering. The result formalises an approach that is rather common in computer science but has hitherto found little application in philosophy. So the philosophical value of the method is demonstrated by showing how making the LoA of discourse explicit can be fruitful for phenomenological and conceptual analysis. To this end, the method is applied to the Turing Test, the concept of agenthood, the definition of emergence, the notion of artificial life, quantum observation and decidable observation. It is hoped that this treatment will promote the use of the method in certain areas of the humanities and especially in philosophy. (shrink)
Two main theories about metacognition are reviewed, each of which claims to provide a better explanation of this phenomenon, while discrediting the other theory as inappropriate. The paper claims that in order to do justice to the complex phenomenon of metacognition, we must distinguish two levels of this capacity—each having a different structure, a different content and a different function within the cognitive architecture. It will be shown that each of the reviewed theories has been trying to explain only (...) one of the two levels and that, consequently, the conflict between them can be dissolved. The paper characterizes the high-level as a rationalizing level where the subject uses concepts and theories to interpret her own behavior and the low-level as a controlling level where the subject exploits epistemic feelings to adjust her cognitive activities. Finally, the paper explores three kinds of interaction between the levels. (shrink)
Quite a few recent models are rapidly introducing new concepts describing diﬀerent levels of consciousness. This situation is getting confusing because some theorists formulate their models without making reference to existing views, redundantly adding complexity to an already diﬃcult problem. In this paper, I present and compare nine neurocognitive models to highlight points of convergence and divergence. Two aspects of consciousness seem especially important: perception of self in time and complexity of self-representations. To this I add frequency of self-focus, (...) amount of self-related information, and accuracy of self-knowledge. Overall, I conclude that many novel concepts (e.g., reﬂective, primary, core, extended, recursive, and minimal consciousness) are useful in helping us distinguish between delicate variations in consciousness and in clarifying theoretical issues that have been intensely debated in the scientiﬁc literature—e.g., consciousness in relation to mirror self-recognition and language. Ó 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. (shrink)
I argue that Mumford and Anjum’s recent theory of simultaneous causation among powerful meso-level objects is problematic in several respects: it is based on a false dichotomy, it is incompatible with standard meso-level physics, it is explanatory deficient, and it threatens to render the powers metaphysics incoherent. Powers theorists are advised, therefore, to adopt a purely sequential conception of causation.
The international debate on the ethics and legality of autonomous weapon systems (AWS), along with the call for a ban, primarily focus on the nebulous concept of fully autonomous AWS. These are AWS capable of target selection and engagement absent human supervision or control. This paper argues that such a conception of autonomy is divorced from both military planning and decision-making operations; it also ignores the design requirements that govern AWS engineering and the subsequent tracking and tracing of moral responsibility. (...) To show how military operations can be coupled with design ethics, this paper marries two different kinds of meaningful human control (MHC) termed levels of abstraction. Under this two-tiered understanding of MHC, the contentious notion of ‘full’ autonomy becomes unproblematic. (shrink)
Tim Bayne and Susanna Siegel have recently offered interesting arguments in favor of the view that we can experience high-level properties like being a pine tree or being a stethoscope (Bayne 2009, Siegel 2006, 2011). We argue first that Bayne’s simpler argument fails. However, our main aim in this paper is to show that Siegel’s more sophisticated argument for her version of the high-level view can also be resisted if one adopts a view that distinguishes between perceptual experiences and seemings.
The subject of this edited volume is the idea of levels of organization: roughly, the idea that the natural world is segregated into part-whole relationships of increasing spatiotemporal scale and complexity. The book comprises a collection of essays that raise the idea of levels into its own topic of analysis. Owing to the wide prominence of the idea of levels, the scope of the volume is aimed at theoreticians, philosophers, and practicing researchers of all stripes in the (...) life sciences. The volume’s contributions reflect this diversity, and draw from fields such as developmental biology, evolutionary biology, molecular biology, ecology, cell biology, and neuroscience. The book presents wide-ranging novel insights on causation and levels, the hierarchical structure of evolution, the role of levels in biological theory, and more. (shrink)