This paper challenges the common assumption that some phenotypic traits are quantitative while others are qualitative. The distinction between these two kinds of traits is widely influential in biological and biomedical research as well as in scientific education and communication. This is probably due to both historical and epistemological reasons. However, the quantitative/qualitative distinction involves a variety of simplifications on the genetic causes of phenotypic variability and on the development of complex traits. Here, I examine three cases from the life (...) sciences that show inconsistencies in the distinction: Mendelian traits, Mendelian diseases, and polygenic mental disorders. I show that these traits can be framed both quantitatively and qualitatively depending, for instance, on the methods through which they are investigated and on specific epistemic purposes. This suggests that the received view of quantitative and qualitative traits has a limited heuristic power—limited to some local contexts or to the specific methodologies adopted. Throughout the paper, I provide directions for framing phenotypes beyond the quantitative/qualitative distinction. I conclude by pointing at the necessity of developing a principled characterisation of what phenotypic traits, in general, are. (shrink)
The homeostatic property cluster theory is widely influential for its ability to account for many natural-kind terms in the life sciences. However, the notion of homeostatic mechanism has never been fully explicated. In 2009, Carl Craver interpreted the notion in the sense articulated in discussions on mechanistic explanation and pointed out that the HPC account equipped with such notion invites interest-relativity. In this paper, we analyze two recent refinements on HPC: one that avoids any reference to the causes of the (...) clustering of properties and one that replaces homeostatic mechanisms with causal networks represented by causal graphs. We argue that the former is too slender to account for some inductive inference in science and the latter, thicker account invites interest-relativity, as the original HPC does. This suggests that human interest will be an un-eliminative part of a satisfactory account of natural kindness. We conclude by discussing the implication of interest-relativity to the naturalness, reality, or objectivity of kinds and indicating an overlooked aspect of natural kinds that requires further studies. (shrink)
In 1976, the Genetics Society of America published a document entitled “Resolution of Genetics, Race, and Intelligence.” This document laid out the Society’s position in the IQ controversy, particularly that on scientific and ethical questions involving the genetics of intellectual differences between human populations. Since the GSA was the largest scientific society of geneticists in the world, many expected the document to be of central importance in settling the controversy. Unfortunately, the Resolution had surprisingly little influence on the discussion. In (...) 1979, William Provine analyzed the possible factors that decreased the impact of the Resolution, among them scientists’ limited understanding of the relationship between science and ethics. Through the analysis of unpublished versions of the Resolution and exchanges between GSA members, I will suggest that the limited impact of the statement likely depended on a shift in the aims of the GSA due to the controversies that surrounded the preparation of the document. Indeed, the demands of the membership made it progressively more impartial in both scientific and political terms, decreasing its potential significance for a wider audience. Notably, the troubled history of the Resolution raises the question of what can make effective or ineffective the communication between scientists and the public—a question with resonance in past and present discussions on topics of social importance. (shrink)
Although brain size and the concept of intelligence have been extensively used in comparative neuroscience to study cognition and its evolution, such coarse-grained traits may not be informative enough about important aspects of neurocognitive systems. By taking into account the different evolutionary trajectories and the selection pressures on neurophysiology across species, Logan and colleagues suggest that the cognitive abilities of an organism should be investigated by considering the fine-grained and species-specific phenotypic traits that characterize it. In such a way, we (...) would avoid adopting human-oriented, coarse-grained traits, typical of the standard approach in cognitive neuroscience. We argue that this standard approach can fail in some cases, but can, however, work in others, by discussing two major topics in contemporary neuroscience as examples: general intelligence and brain asymmetries. (shrink)
Ageing is one of the main risk factors for Covid-19. In this paper, we delineate four alternative conceptualisations of ageing, each of which determines different understandings of its causal role to the susceptibility to Covid-19 as well as to the severity of its symptoms and adverse health outcomes.
ITA: In che modo il nostro cervello è in grado di produrre quel tipo di comportamento flessibile e volto a specifici scopi che chiamiamo intelligenza? Le differenze cognitive tra individui sono dovute a una varietà di abilità mentali o a una sola? Questo articolo discute gli elementi centrali della teoria dell’intelligenza generale proposta da John Duncan nel volume How intelligence happens, tradotto recentemente in italiano e corredato da un capitolo conclusivo inedito. Prendendo le mosse dalla ricerca di Charles Spearman sull’intelligenza (...) generale e sui test d’intelligenza, Duncan caratterizza l’intelligenza nei termini di integrazione e controllo cognitivo. I dati neuroscientifici raccolti da Duncan suggeriscono che questi aspetti chiave del comportamento intelligente siano realizzati da un circuito cerebrale, chiamato multiple-demand system, in grado di scomporre problemi complessi in sotto-problemi più semplici e integrare informazioni da varie aree del cervello. ENG: How does our brain generate that sort of flexible and goal-directed behaviour that we call intelligence? Are individual differences in intelligence due to a variety of cognitive abilities or do they depend on one single mental ability? In this commentary, I revise and critically assess the key elements of John Duncan’s theory of general intelligence presented in the popular-science book How intelligence happens, recently translated into Italian and edited by F. Pavani, with a new final chapter. Starting from Charles Spearman’s research on a general intelligence factor and psychometric tests, Duncan advances a theory that characterises intelligence in terms of integration and cognitive control. Neuropsychological and neuroimaging data suggest that such key aspects of intelligent behaviour are realised by a brain network called a multiple-demand system, which is capable of decomposing complex problems into simpler sub-problems and then integrating information from different brain areas. (shrink)
ITA: In questo articolo analizzerò la differenza tra il concetto di ereditarietà e quello di ereditabilità. In primo luogo, evidenzierò come i due concetti derivino storicamente da differenti tradizioni nello studio della variabili-tà fenotipica e del rapporto genotipo-fenotipo. Secondariamente, illustrerò gli aspetti teorici e metodologici alla base dei due concetti, che sono peraltro collegati a differenti aree delle scienze biologiche. Infine, spigherò brevemente come si sia recentemente tentato, con molte difficoltà, di connettere lo studio dei meccanismi dell’ereditarietà allo studio dell’ereditabilità. (...) Nel discutere le questioni di cui sopra, farò riferimento a tratti psi-cologici come l’intelligenza dal momento che è proprio dallo studio di questo tipo di tratti che sono emersi i maggiori problemi teorici e metodologici, nonché le controversie più intense. -/- ENG: In this paper, I analyse the distinction between heredity and heritability. First, I highlight that the two con-cepts derive from different historical traditions in the study of phenotypic variability and of the genotype-phenotype relationship. Second, I illustrate the theoretical and methodological aspects connected to the two concepts, which are traditionally associated with different areas of biological research. Then, I focus on recent attempts aimed at connecting with each other the analysis of heredity and of heritability. In my discussion, I shall often refer to human psychological traits such as intelligence. Indeed, most theoretical and methodological dis-cussions have emerged with respect to the study of these traits. (shrink)
In recent years, a trend in AI research has started to pursue human-level, general artificial intelli-gence (AGI). Although the AGI framework is characterised by different viewpoints on what intelligence is and how to implement it in artificial systems, it conceptualises intelligence as flexible, general-purposed, and capable of self-adapting to different contexts and tasks. Two important ques-tions remain open: a) should AGI projects simu-late the biological, neural, and cognitive mecha-nisms realising the human intelligent behaviour? and b) what is the relationship, if (...) any, between the concept of general intelligence adopted by AGI and that adopted by psychometricians, i.e., the g factor? In this paper, we address these ques-tions and invite researchers in AI to open a dis-cussion on the theoretical conceptions and practi-cal purposes of the AGI approach. (shrink)
In this paper, we aim at rethinking the concept of obesity in a way that better captures the connection between underlying medical aspects, on the one hand, and an individual’s developmental history, on the other. Our proposal rests on the idea that obesity is not to be understood as a phenotypic trait or character; rather, obesity represents one of the many possible states of a more complex phenotypic trait that we call ‘energy metabolism.’ We argue that this apparently simple conceptual (...) shift can help solve important theoretical misconceptions regarding the genetics, epigenetics, and development of obesity. In addition, we show that our proposal can be fruitfully paired with the concept of developmental channeling of a trait, which connects to the study of the plasticity and canalization of complex traits. Finally, we discuss the potential impact of our approach on the assessment, treatment, and social narratives of obesity. (shrink)
Mostrando le analogie tra il modello di Homo oeconomicus e quello che chiameremo Animal oeconomicum, nonché la genealogia del ragionamento “economico” applicato al comportamento animale, vengono messi in risalto gli impliciti e le debolezze di alcuni ragionamenti etologici frequenti; revisioni e critiche che hanno ridimensionato il concetto di Homo oeconomicus sono applicabili anche all’interpretazione raziocinante e calcolatrice del comportamento animale.
In this paper, we discuss the conceptual structure of cocktail recipes. This topic involves engaging questions for philosophers and food theorists due to some peculiar characteristics of cocktail recipes, such as the fact that they are standardised by international associations but, nonetheless, vagueness in some elements of the recipes introduces a degree of variability between cocktails of the same type. Our proposal is that a classical theory of concepts is unable to account for such peculiar features. Thus, only a hybrid (...) theoretical approach, combining definitional and prototypical aspects, can capture how cocktail recipes are usually conceptualised among bartenders and mixologists: while the spirit is usually a necessary (though not sufficient) condition for establishing whether an individual cocktail falls under a specific cocktail concept, all the other ingredients and procedures listed in recipes may vary to a certain extent. In order to assess whether variability in prototypical elements of cocktail recipes has any limitations, we exploit the notion of conceptual scheme applied to cocktail recipes and argue that, as long as the quality dimensions of a specific cocktail are respected, its identity remains unchanged regardless of changes in the ingredients or in its preparation. (shrink)
ENG: We all have our own ideas about what it is like to be intelligent. Indeed, even the experts disagree on this topic. This has generated diverse theories on the nature of intelligence and its genetic and environmental bases. Many scientific and philosophical questions thus remain unaddressed: is it possible to characterize intelligence in scientific terms? What do IQ tests measure? How is intelligence influenced by genetics, epigenetics, and the environment? What are the ethical and social implications of the research (...) on this topic? This book aims to provide the readers with the conceptual resources to critically analyze scientific findings and orientate themselves in this multi-faceted debate across biology, psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, and anthropology. -/- ITA: Ognuno di noi ha una propria idea di cosa significhi essere intelligenti, tanto che anche gli scienziati esperti in materia hanno opinioni differenti al riguardo. Ciò ha contribuito a generare teorie contrastanti sulla natura dell’intelligenza e su quali siano le sue basi genetiche e ambientali. Non è un caso, dunque, che diverse domande scientifiche e filosofiche restino ancora aperte: è possibile caratterizzare scientificamente l’intelligenza? Cosa misurano i test del QI? In che modo genetica, epigenetica e ambiente influenzano l’intelligenza? Quali sono le implicazioni etiche e sociali della ricerca sull’argomento? Oltre ad analizzare questi problemi, il testo intende fornire gli strumenti concettuali necessari per leggere criticamente i dati scientifici e orientarsi in uno sfaccettato e affascinante dibattito a cavallo tra biologia, psicologia, neuroscienze, filosofia e antropologia. (shrink)
Nella pratica scientifica ci sono molte questioni di tipo concettuale che possono trarre vantaggio da uno specifico sguardo filosofico. Per esempio, qual è la differenza tra scienza e pseudoscienza? Le teorie scientifiche sono in grado di fornire una descrizione vera del mondo? In cosa consiste la spiegazione scientifica? In che misura l’impresa scientifica è influenzata da valori etici, politici, economici o religiosi? Prediligendo un approccio tematico, il volume introduce alla comprensione dei principali problemi teorici della filosofia della scienza attraverso l’analisi (...) di venti parole o concetti chiave, così da permettere la lettura dei singoli capitoli in modo indipendente, pur in una fitta rete di importanti rimandi. (shrink)
The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders included the Social Communication Disorder as a new mental disorder characterized by deficits in pragmatic abilities. Although the introduction of SPCD in the psychiatry nosography depended on a variety of reasons—including bridging a nosological gap in the macro-category of Communication Disorders—in the last few years researchers have identified major issues in such revision. For instance, the symptomatology of SPCD is notably close to that of Autism Spectrum Disorder. This (...) opens up the possibility that individuals with very similar symptoms can be diagnosed differently and receive different clinical treatments and social support. The aim of this paper is to review recent debates on SPCD, particularly as regards its independence from ASD. In the first part, we outline the major aspects of the DSM-5 nosological revision involving ASD and SPCD. In the second part, we focus on the validity and reliability of SPCD. First, we analyze literature on three potential validators of SPCD, i.e., etiology, response to treatment, and measurability. Then, we turn to reliability issues connected with the introduction of the grandfather clause and the use of the concepts of spectrum and threshold in the definition of ASD. In the conclusion, we evaluate whether SPCD could play any role in contemporary psychiatry other than that of an independent mental disorder and discuss the role that non-epistemic factors could play in the delineation of the future psychiatry nosography. (shrink)
The model of human intelligence that is most widely adopted derives from psychometrics and behavioral genetics. This standard approach conceives intelligence as a general cognitive ability that is genetically highly heritable and describable using quantitative traits analysis. The paper analyzes intelligence within the debate on natural kinds and contends that the general intelligence conceptualization does not carve psychological nature at its joints. Moreover, I argue that this model assumes an essentialist perspective. As an alternative, I consider an HPC theory of (...) intelligence and evaluate how it deals with essentialism and with intuitions coming from cognitive science. Finally, I highlight some concerns about the HPC model as well, and conclude by suggesting that it is unnecessary to treat intelligence as a kind in any sense. (shrink)
This classic edition presents the correspondence of one of the great thinkers of the 18th century, and offers a rich picture of the man and his age. This first volume contains David Hume's letters from 1727 to 1765. Hume's correspondents include such famous public figures as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith, James Boswell, and Benjamin Franklin.
In 'How Many Lives Has Schrödinger's Cat?' David Lewis argues that the Everettian no-collapse interpretation of quantum mechanics is in a tangle when it comes to probabilities. This paper aims to show that the difficulties that Lewis raises are insubstantial. The Everettian metaphysics contains a coherent account of probability. Indeed it accounts for probability rather better than orthodox metaphysics does.
David and Mary Norton present the definitive scholarly edition of Hume's Treatise, one of the greatest philosophical works ever written. This set comprises the two volumes of texts and editorial material, which are also available for purchase separately. -/- David Hume (1711 - 1776) is one of the greatest of philosophers. Today he probably ranks highest of all British philosophers in terms of influence and philosophical standing. His philosophical work ranges across morals, the mind, metaphysics, epistemology, religion, and aesthetics; he (...) had broad interests not only in philosophy as it is now conceived but in history, politics, economics, religion, and the arts. He was a master of English prose. -/- The Clarendon Hume Edition will include all of his works except his History of England and minor historical writings. It is the only thorough critical edition, and will provide a far more extensive scholarly treatment than any previous editions. This edition (which has been in preparation since the 1970s) offers authoritative annotation, bibliographical information, and indexes, and draws upon the major advances in textual scholarship that have been made since the publication of earlier editions - advances both in the understanding of editorial principle and practice and in knowledge of the history of Hume's own texts. (shrink)
It is widely assumed that the normativity of conceptual judgement poses problems for naturalism. Thus John McDowell urges that 'The structure of the space of reasons stubbornly resists being appropriated within a naturalism that conceives nature as the realm of law' (1994, p 73). Similar sentiments have been expressed by many other writers, for example Robert Brandom (1994, p xiii) and Paul Boghossian (1989, p 548).
David Wallace argues that we should take quantum theory seriously as an account of what the world is like--which means accepting the idea that the universe is constantly branching into new universes. He presents an accessible but rigorous account of the 'Everett interpretation', the best way to make coherent sense of quantum physics.
David Bohm is one of the foremost scientific thinkers of today and one of the most distinguished scientists of his generation. His challenge to the conventional understanding of quantum theory has led scientists to reexamine what it is they are going and his ideas have been an inspiration across a wide range of disciplines. _Quantum Implications_ is a collection of original contributions by many of the world' s leading scholars and is dedicated to David Bohm, his work and the issues (...) raised by his ideas. The contributors range across physics, philosophy, biology, art, psychology, and include some of the most distinguished scientists of the day. There is an excellent introduction by the editors, putting Bohm's work in context and setting right some of the misconceptions that have persisted about the work of David Bohm. (shrink)
This distinctive collection of original articles features contributions from many of the leading scholars of ancient Greek philosophy. They explore the concept of reason and the method of analysis and the central role they play in the philosophies of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. They engage with salient themes in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and political theory, as well as tracing links between each thinker’s ideas on selected topics. The volume contains analyses of Plato’s Socrates, focusing on his views of moral psychology, (...) the obligation to obey the law, the foundations of politics, justice and retribution, and Socratic virtue. On Plato’s Republic, the discussions cover the relationship between politics and philosophy, the primacy of reason over the soul’s non-rational capacities, the analogy of the city and the soul, and our responsibility for choosing how we live our own lives. The anthology also probes Plato’s analysis of logos which underlies his philosophy including the theory of forms. A quartet of reflections explores Aristotelian themes including the connections between knowledge and belief, the nature of essence and function, and his theories of virtue and grace. The volume concludes with an insightful intellectual memoir by David Keyt which charts the rise of analytic classical scholarship in the past century and along the way provides entertaining anecdotes involving major figures in modern academic philosophy. Blending academic authority with creative flair and demonstrating the continuing interest of ancient Greek philosophy, this book will be a valuable addition to the libraries of all those studying and researching the origins of Western philosophy. (shrink)
Democracy is not naturally plausible. Why turn such important matters over to masses of people who have no expertise? Many theories of democracy answer by appealing to the intrinsic value of democratic procedure, leaving aside whether it makes good decisions. In Democratic Authority, David Estlund offers a groundbreaking alternative based on the idea that democratic authority and legitimacy must depend partly on democracy's tendency to make good decisions.Just as with verdicts in jury trials, Estlund argues, the authority and legitimacy of (...) a political decision does not depend on the particular decision being good or correct. But the "epistemic value" of the procedure--the degree to which it can generally be accepted as tending toward a good decision--is nevertheless crucial. Yet if good decisions were all that mattered, one might wonder why those who know best shouldn't simply rule.Estlund's theory--which he calls "epistemic proceduralism"--avoids epistocracy, or the rule of those who know. He argues that while some few people probably do know best, this can be used in political justification only if their expertise is acceptable from all reasonable points of view. If we seek the best epistemic arrangement in this respect, it will be recognizably democratic--with laws and policies actually authorized by the people subject to them. (shrink)
The priority view has become very popular in moral philosophy, but there is a serious question about how it should be formalized. The most natural formalization leads to ex post prioritarianism, which results from adding expected utility theory to the main ideas of the priority view. But ex post prioritarianism entails a claim which is too implausible for it to be a serious competitor to utilitarianism. In fact, ex post prioritarianism was probably never a genuine alternative to utilitarianism in the (...) first place. By contrast, ex ante prioritarianism is defensible. But its motivation is very different from the usual rationales offered for the priority view. Given the untenability of ex post prioritarianism, it is more natural for most friends of the priority view to revert to utilitarianism. (shrink)
Second part of the translation into Spanish of David Lewis' "New Work for a Theory of Universals", corresponding to the last sections of the original paper. || Segunda parte de la traducción al español del trabajo de David Lewis "New Work for a Theory of Universals", correspondiente a últimas secciones del artículo original. Artículo original publicado en: Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 61, No. 4, Dec. 1983, pp. 343-377.
David and Mary Norton present the definitive scholarly edition of Hume's Treatise, one of the greatest philosophical works ever written. This volume contains their account of how the Treatise was written and published; an explanation of how they established the text; an extensive set of annotations; and a detailed bibliography and index.
Moral realism and antirealist-expressivism are of course incompatible positions. They disagree fundamentally about the nature of moral states of mind, the existence of moral states of affairs and properties, and the nature and role of moral discourse. The central realist view is that a person who has or expresses a moral thought is thereby in, or thereby expresses, a cognitive state of mind; she has or expresses a belief that represents a moral state of affairs in a way that might (...) be accurate or inaccurate. The view of antirealist-expressivism is that such a person is in, or expresses, a conative state of mind, one that consists in a certain kind of attitude or motivational stance toward something, such as an action or a person. Realism holds that moral thoughts have truth conditions and that in some cases these truth conditions are satisfied so that our moral thoughts are true. Antirealist-expressivism holds, to a first approximation, that the distinctive moral content of a moral thought does not have truth conditions. (shrink)
Does morality override self-interest? Or does self-interest override morality? These questions become important in situations where there is conflict between the overall verdicts of morality and self-interest, situations where morality on balance requires an action that is contrary to our self-interest, or where considerations of self-interest on balance call for an action that is forbidden by morality. In situations of this kind, we want to know what we ought simpliciter to do. If one of these standpoints over-rides the other, then (...) there is a straightforward answer. We ought simpliciter to act on the verdict of the overriding standpoint. For purposes of this essay, I assume that there are possible cases in which the overall verdicts of morality and self-interest conflict. I will call cases of this kind “conflict cases.” The verdict of morality in a conflict case would be a proposition as to what we ought morally to do, or as to what we have the most moral reason to do; the verdict of self-interest would be a proposition as to what we ought to do in our self-interest, or as to what action is best supported by reasons or considerations of self-interest. These propositions are action-guiding or normative in a familiar sense. The conflict between morality and self-interest in conflict cases is there-fore a normative conflict; it is a conflict between the overall verdicts of different normative standpoints. I take it that the question of whether morality overrides self-interest is the question of whether the verdicts of morality are normatively more important than the verdicts of self-interest. In due course, I will explain the idea of normative importance as well as the ideas of a normative proposition and of a reason. (shrink)
First part of the translation into Spanish of David Lewis' "New Work for a Theory of Universals", corresponding to the introduction and the first two sections of the original paper. || Primera parte de la traducción al español del trabajo de David Lewis "New Work for a Theory of Universals", correspondiente a la introducción y las dos primeras secciones del artículo original. Artículo original publicado en: Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 61, No. 4, Dec. 1983, pp. 343-377.