PSA2014 Symposia Abstracts
Note that the Symposia abstracts are abstracts of the entire symposium, not the individual papers presented in the symposium. The Symposia Abstracts are ordered alphabetically by the title of the Session.
50 Years of Inclusive Fitness
In 1964, W. D. Hamilton introduced what is now the best known and most widely used framework for understanding the evolution of social behaviour: inclusive fitness theory. This symposium aims firstly to mark the 50th anniversary of Hamilton's pioneering work, and secondly to make progress on some important but previously neglected conceptual issues that the move from classical fitness to inclusive fitness raises. The symposium will be highly interdisciplinary, incorporating philosophical, sociological, historical, and theoretical perspectives. The five papers will address a number of key foundational questions, including: (i) the extent to which inclusive fitness provides a 'design objective' for animal behaviour; (ii) the extent to which inclusive fitness is an inherently causal notion; (iii) the relationship between inclusive fitness and rational choice theory; (iv) the relevance of inclusive fitness to the evolution of morality; (v) the role of robustness analysis in evaluating inclusive fitness models; and (vi) the 'kin selection' vs 'group selection' controversy.
Agnotology -- Its Untapped Potential
Science has traditionally been billed as our foremost producer of knowledge. For at least 10 years now, however, science has also been billed as an important producer of ignorance. Indeed, historian of science Robert Proctor has coined a new term, agnotology, to refer to the study of ignorance, and it turns out that almost all of the ignorance studied in this new area is produced by science. The type of ignorance that has garnered most attention is what Proctor calls ignorance as "active construct," the kind of ignorance (to use Proctor's phrase) "made, maintained, and manipulated" by science -- by an increasingly politicized and commercialized science. But Proctor has distinguished two other types of ignorance also produced by science: ignorance as "passive construct," that is, ignorance as an unintended by-product of research decisions; and ignorance as "virtuous" -- when "not knowing" is accepted in research as a consequence of adopting certain values. In our symposium we will focus on these other two types of ignorance, thus far mostly ignored, furnishing examples that show the variety of forms they take and their importance. In so doing, we will be helping to provide an understanding of the full potential of agnotology and what it might contribute to history and philosophy of science.
Beyond the Lab Experiment: Field Experiments, Natural Experiments, Simulations, and Causal Process Tracing
The papers in this session focus on identifying causes and causal processes in settings beyond the traditional controlled laboratory experiment. They explore a range of experimental approaches (including field experiments, natural experiments, and social experiments), the relationship between each of these and causal process tracing, and how experiments and simulations differ and converge as tools for generating causal claims. While most philosophers discussing experiments have focused on physics and the biomedical sciences, the papers in this session frame their discussion of these topics around less-examined research areas, including the social sciences, evolutionary biology, ecology, and physical geography. Thus these papers all contribute to the growing literature on experiments, but focus on topics that have not been central in the discussion to date.
Chemical theory is in large part concerned with structure: the structure of atoms, of small molecules, of macromolecules, and of materials. This symposium investigates the foundations of structural theory across all these scales, revealing the breadth and application of these ideas throughout chemistry. The first part of the symposium explores concepts of structure at two very different scales: that of nanostructure and that of macromolecular superstructure. The second part of the symposium examines how abstraction and idealization influence structure and its cognitive role in chemical practice. By exploring the nature and effect of concepts of structure throughout chemical cognition and custom, this symposium offers a novel, comprehensive, and unifying picture of a foundational feature of chemistry.
Complex Life Cycles, Reproduction, and Evolution
Evolutionary explanations as usually conceived are based on the reproductive powers of biological individuals. Much work in evolutionary theory and the philosophy of biology has been done by assuming simple life cycles in which reproduction is clear and obvious. However, simple life cycles are not the norm across the range of biological diversity. Many organisms alternate between different modes of reproduction, sexual and asexual. A "like begets like" assumption about reproduction is routinely violated in much of the tree of life. How much of standard evolutionary thinking is dependent on simple and vertebrate-centric views of life cycles? This symposium will explicitly consider the consequences of complex life cycles for our understanding of reproduction, individuality, and evolution.
Conceptions of Space, Time and Spacetime
Questions regarding the structure of space and time have been of central concern to philosophers since at least the time of Aristotle. The questions raised, and the answers provided, have been strongly influenced by the physical theories and mathematical apparatus of the day. Nowadays, classical mechanics, general relativity, quantum field theory, string theory and the theory of the real numbers have been pre-eminently influential. The four talks of the proposed symposium are all concerned with one or more of these theories. They are also unified by a concern with limitations to our epistemic warrant for ascriptions of structure to space and time—as illustrated by the consideration of alternative structures. Belot will open the symposium by discussing the homogeneity of time in both classical mechanics and general relativity. Butterfield will then discuss two disparate kinds of under-determination of spacetime structure that arise in quantum field theory and string theory. Next, Manchak will discuss the peculiar causal properties of Gödel’s cosmological model that seem to imply the non-existence of an objective lapse of time. And, finally, Ehrlich will challenge the near universally-held view that points of space, having length zero, are necessarily unextended.
Curie's Principle: The Good, the Bad, and the Symmetry Violating
This symposium aims to clarify an important symmetry principle known as Curie's principle, and to identify its historical and foundational significance. In particular, we will 1) Articulate a variety of distinct propositions that might be characterized as Curie's principle, and identify the plausibility of each; 2) Clarify the historical significance of Curie's principle in the famous CP-violation and T-violation experiments in the 20th century; 3) Respond to the recent claim of Roberts (2013) that Curie's principle is false; 4) Propose generalizations of Curie's principle in deterministic, probabilistic, and indeterministic theories, as well as to quantum theories beyond the standard model; and 5) Consider the role of Curie's principle in guiding theory construction.
Explanation: Communication, Representation, Objectivity
Existing work on scientific explanation typically focuses on the nature of explanatory relations. It asks: what types of facts about the world are explanatory? Answers include laws of nature, causal relations, statistical regularities, etc. In this symposium we take a step back to ask: is the explanatory relation all there is to explanatory norms? If there is something else--in particular, representational strategies or communicative needs--is it auxiliary, or do these human-centered elements of explanatory practice modulate the nature of the explanatory relation itself? The latter would imply that much contemporary research into explanation, with its "ontic" focus, is on the wrong track. The participants differ. Two of us, Potochnik and Levy, believe that explanation is a far more subject-relative category than current discussions allow and advocate greater attention to its representational, communicative and psychological aspects. The other two participants, Strevens and Franklin-Hall, acknowledge the importance of communication and related aspects, but hold that explanation is fundamentally objective. They argue that an account of its objective basis should be the first stop in any quest to understand explanation. By exploring questions of subjectivity and objectivity in scientific explanation, this symposium spurs critical evaluation of the current agenda for work on explanation and explanatory practice in science.
Formal Methods in Philosophy of Science
The aim of this symposium is to present some new formal tools and apply them to traditional questions in philosophy of science. In particular, we will consider how tools from category theory and the theory of multigraphs can provide insight about the relationships between scientific theories. Such tools allow for new approaches to old philosophical issues like theoretical equivalence, empirical equivalence, and the structure of scientific change. Furthermore, they suggest relations between theories that have yet to be examined by philosophers. Category theory allows for the explication and formalization of the intuitive notion of ``the amount of structure'' that a scientific theory posits. It also allows one to characterize and reason more carefully about gauge theories. Similar tools from the theory of multigraphs have applications in evolutionary biology, ecology, and other special sciences. They allow philosophers of science to explore relations between theories and models, discuss theoretical virtues, and they can also indicate opportunities for future conceptual work.
How Adequate Are Causal Graphs and Bayesian Networks for Modeling Biological Mechanisms?
The theory of causation has been profoundly transformed by the availability of powerful formal frameworks using tools such as directed acyclic graphs (DAGs) and Bayesian Networks in order to represent causal relations. These formal calculi are well suited for being given a causal interpretation, for example, with the help of interventionism. Furthermore, these formalisms have been fruitfully applied not only in the sciences, but also to address philosophical issues having to do with causation and scientific explanation in a number of scientific disciplines, including economics, psychology, physics, and biology. Recently, several authors have used formal theories of causation in order to model biological mechanisms, which are widely and justly thought to be crucially important in the contemporary life sciences. The aim of this symposium is to examine the strengths of formal accounts of mechanisms, while also revealing the limitations of such accounts. Two presenters (Alexander Gebharter, Lorenzo Casini) will expand and defend the formal approaches to representing mechanisms that they have developed, while two other presenters (Marie Kaiser, Marcel Weber) will criticize the view that mechanistic biological explanations can be adequately formalized by such an approach.
How Many Sigmas to Discovery? Philosophy and Statistics in the Higgs Experiments
A 5 sigma effect! is how the recent Higgs boson discovery was reported. Yet before the dust had settled, the very nature and rationale of the 5 sigma (or 5 standard deviation) discovery criteria began to be challenged and debated both among scientists and in the popular press. Why 5 sigma? How is it to be interpreted? Do p-values in high-energy physics (HEP) avoid controversial uses and misuses of p-values in social and other sciences? The goal of our symposium is to combine the insights of philosophers and scientists whose work interrelates philosophy of statistics, data analysis and modeling in experimental physics, with critical perspectives on how discoveries proceed in practice. Our contributions will link questions about the nature of statistical evidence, inference, and discovery with questions about the very creation of standards for interpreting and communicating statistical experiments. We will bring out some unique aspects of discovery in modern HEP. We also show the illumination the episode offers to some of the thorniest issues revolving around statistical inference, frequentist and Bayesian methods, and the philosophical, technical, social, and historical dimensions of scientific discovery.
Learning from others: pooling vs updating
Our symposium presents recent work within formal social epistemology. More precisely, it presents conceptual and formal results on epistemological aspects of public deliberation and consensus formation. It consists of four papers that each concern the relation between two important models for the reasoning processes that follow divergent opinions in a group, to wit, opinion pooling and Bayesian conditionalization on the opinions of others. These models are shown to be conceptually distinct, yet intricately linked in virtue of a number of new formal results. The symposium has a high degree of internal coherence as it builds on a consensus among the symposium participants that was formed in a series of informal workshops held over the past few years. Although the symposium is focused on a specific theme, it advertises an analytic approach to the social dimension of scientific inquiry that bears relevance to philosophy of science and epistemology in general.
Measuring What? Measurement Validation Across the Sciences
What makes a measure valid, whether it is a measure of time or happiness? Despite the recent growth of philosophy of measurement, validation practices across social, natural and medical sciences remain insufficiently examined by philosophers of science. This symposium focuses on three core questions: Is there a single epistemology to measure validation? Are the current validation procedures across sciences defensible? Finally what are the moral dimensions of measurement in social and medical sciences? Four papers by six philosophers of science examine these questions by attending to examples of current approaches to validation of physical, psychological and medical measures.
Moral Emotions: Approaches, Origins, and Ethics
Hume famously argued that certain emotions lead to moral behavior. Recent work in cognitive science, psychology, and biology has indicated that moral emotions are indeed a crucial part of prosocial behavior, leading philosophers to take notice. This symposium includes new work in philosophy of science on moral emotions. This work is largely concerned with two questions: How and why do moral emotions evolve? And what are the upshots for norms and ethics? The four talks in this symposium represent different approaches to these problems drawing from evolutionary biology, evolutionary game theory, psychology, and naturalized ethics.
Narrative is surprisingly common in the practices of many sciences, but there is as yet no common understanding of the role or roles it plays, or whether indeed there is any commonality to the functions of narrative in different sciences. While it is tempting to view the ubiquity of narrative in the sciences mainly as a means to gloss or even popularize research findings, the papers of this symposium argue the contrary. Based on examples from a diverse set of fields - chemistry, medicine, biology and sociology - the symposium panelists will explore the various epistemic and ontological functions that narrative plays in ordering the phenomena of a domain.
Naturalism and Values: Or, what can Data do for Philosophy of Science?
Participants in this symposium will present and discuss data relating to the role of the values in science and will use these data as a backdrop against which to explore the popular concept of naturalism. According to naturalism, philosophers should not attempt to legislate a priori principles but should instead make normative claims that are informed by an understanding of actual science. Yet a naturalistic perspective of this sort could be interpreted in a number of different ways, some of which are not very plausible. For instance, a naive "just ask the scientists" conception of naturalism will not do, since scientists may not have systematically considered the philosophical issues, may disagree when they do, and there might be grounds for a critique even if they were in universal accord. So one major aim of the symposium will be to clarify in what senses naturalism is, and is not, a reasonable constraint on philosophy of science. The symposium will then examine the implications of the data for normative philosophical projects related to the topic of values in science given the more plausible versions of naturalism.
Newton, Mathematics, and Mechanism
The symposium focuses on the meanings of 'mechanism,' 'mechanics,' and 'the mechanical philosophy' in Isaac Newton's highly mathematical natural philosophy and their implications for his philosophy of science. It addresses several interrelated questions: the worth of using 'mechanism' as an interpretive lens through which to understand Newton's natural philosophical output and its innovation, the applicability of mathematics to natural phenomena in Newton's physics given his understanding of mechanics, the status of fundamental ontological commitments in Newton's philosophy of science, and the compatibility of Newton's new ontology of forces with the ontological and methodological commitments of 'mechanism.' The purpose of this symposium is to bring issues that have traditionally been studied in historical circles into contact with contemporary philosophy. In particular, despite the fact that Newton's contributions to the philosophy of space and time and scientific methodology have long been a staple of contemporary philosophy of science, study of his philosophy of mathematics and his relation to the so-called 'mechanical philosophy' have traditionally been undertaken by historians. We hope to address these latter issues, which were equally central to Newton's natural philosophy.
This symposium will consist of presentations by George Smith (Tufts University), Robert DiSalle (Western University), Michael Friedman (Stanford University), and Craig Fox (graduate student, Western University). Potentially, Howard Stein will oﬀer brief commentary on the papers in which he reﬂects on how this new work relates to, and, indeed, extends his seminal 1967 paper, “Newtonian Spacetime.”
NON-CAUSAL EXPLANATION IN THE SCIENCES
According to the presently received view, the sciences explain by providing information about causes and causal mechanisms. However, in the recent literature, an increasing number of philosophers argue that the explanatory practices in the sciences are considerably richer than the causal model of explanation suggests. These philosophers argue that there are non-causal explanations that cannot be accommodated by the causal model. Case studies of non-causal explanations come in a surprisingly diverse variety: for instance, the non-causal character of scientific explanations is based on the explanatory use of non-causal laws, purely mathematical facts, symmetry principles, inter-theoretic relations, renormalization group methods, and so forth. However, if there are non-causal ways of explaining, then the causal model cannot be the whole story about scientific explanation. The goal of this symposium is to shed light on, by and large, unexplored philosophical terrain: that is, to develop a philosophical account of conceptual, epistemological and metaphysical aspects of non-causal explanations in the sciences.
Perspectivism: Models, Realism, and Pluralism
Perspectivism--the recognition that there can be no 'view from nowhere' (to echo Thomas Nagel)--is, among other things, a promising new view in the debate on realism and antirealism about science. To a first approximation, perspectivism vindicates the intuition that our knowledge is always from a well-defined historical and theoretical perspective, while also delivering on the promise of realism. But can perspectivism in fact deliver the best of both worlds? Can it account for scientific knowledge being historically and theoretically situated, while also vindicating some form of realism about science? The goal of this symposium is to explore this thorny issue, and to clarify some key metaphysical and epistemic assumptions, by exploring how perspectivism may work in practice through the use and integration of a plurality of models in the life sciences and the physical sciences.
Philosophy of Interdisciplinarity
Much contemporary science is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary. As a consequence, interdisciplinarity has become a topic of reflection for many practicing scientists who, most often, are trained in 'disciplinary' backgrounds and paradigms. Similarly, the importance of interdisciplinary research for addressing the grand challenges that face modern society is a key priority for funding agencies, policy organizations and university administrators around the globe. However, effective integration of different scientific cultures requires a detailed understanding of the processes that make interdisciplinarity successful. This symposium presents new work in philosophy of science that is based on a detailed understanding of the collaborative and interdisciplinary practices of today's science and which re-addresses classic topics in philosophy of science such as problem solving, explanation, mathematical modeling, and evidence in order to re-orient the discussion to the collaborative and interdisciplinary character of contemporary science. Philosophy of science has an important role to play in developing detailed accounts of the interdisciplinary practices of contemporary science that can be used to train practicing scientists and to advise educators, administrators and policy makers on the practices of science today. In this way, new work on the philosophy of interdisciplinarity contributes both to the development of philosophy of science and to making philosophical analyses applicable outside philosophy itself.
Population Concepts and Race
The symposium will discuss what happens when particular population concepts are applied to biological discussions of race. This symposium will pull together a number of scholars whose diverse areas of expertise are needed in order to make significant headway on this topic. The symposium will include discussion of the following topics (amongst others) that address the overarching theme: the ontological status of populations for biology and biomedical sciences; whether or not a biological population concept can support the claim that there are human races (and if so, how); how both realists and anti-realists ought to approach questions about biological racial realism; if biological populations are nominal or not; the particular boundary conditions for biological populations; whether or not \conventional" races - a la Lewontin (1972) - have any justified connection to human populations; and what follows from applying the Causal Interactionist Population Concept (CIPC) found in Millstein (2010) to human beings."
Putting Pressure On Human Nature
The goal of this symposium is to put pressure on the new defense of human nature, particularly as applied in the human behavioral and social sciences. This will include presentation of both conceptual challenges and empirical test cases, by a mix of philosophers and working scientists. Philosophers of science have recently revived a defense of human nature. However, this is not a defense of the essentialist notions of old. Rather, these new approaches acknowledge and accept the complaints against these essentialist notions, preferring, instead, to frame their arguments in terms of heuristic or pragmatic value. Here we evaluate these heuristic and pragmatic arguments by testing them against case studies and a careful evaluation of practices in the human behavioral and social sciences. This includes asking whether these new notions of human nature demarcate a useful and interesting object of study, and, if so, whether there is any value (or harm!) in calling that object 'human nature'. We will also consider competing conceptual frameworks for cultural evolution and what role, if any, these heuristic notions may play in them.
Quantifying Life: Foundations of Measurement for the Life Sciences
Measurement is the assignment of numbers to empirical structures with the purpose of obtaining quantitative structures in order to use the powerful techniques of modern mathematics. Quantification and measurement are omnipresent in all mature sciences. At least since the work of von Helmholtz's the foundations of measurement have been explored for the physical sciences and later also for the social sciences and psychology. There is one major scientific field, however, where a systematic approach to quantification and measurement is virtually unknown - the life sciences. Only recently some researchers have begun to identify and investigate important measurement problems in the biological sciences. The purpose of the symposium is to introduce this emerging field to a broader audience in the philosophy of science. While many of the measurement problems in the life sciences are pressing concerns arising from applications, the resulting questions call for both precise conceptual and mathematical foundations. It is the hope of the participants of the symposium that philosophers of biology, of statistics and, in general, of science will be inspired to join in the program of exploring the foundations of measurement in biology.
The Foundations of Gravitation and Thermodynamics
Since the discovery in the 1970s that black holes seem to be truly thermodynamical objects, it has been widely believed in the physics community that there is a deep, hitherto unexpected relation between gravity and thermodynamics. This development raises a wide and deep range of philosophical problems that the philosophy of physics community has only begun to scratch the surface of. We propose in this symposium to explore several facets of this relationship, including the nature of the analogy between the laws of black hole mechanics and the laws of thermodynamics, the nature of black hole entropy, the possible role of gravity in the fixing of special thermodynamical conditions in the early universe, the problem of ``information loss'' in black hole evaporation, and the nature of the analogy between the thermodynamical behavior of black holes and various phenomena in fluid mechanics (``dumb holes''). We also intend to provide along the way a synoptic discussion of the major outstanding issue and problems in the field, with the hope to inspire other philosophers to work on these problems.
The Principal Principle
The Principal Principle is the key theoretical tool in the analysis of the relation of objective and subjective probability: it links objective probabilities to subjective probabilities (credences) in a Bayesian manner by requiring subjective degrees of belief to be equal to the objective probabilities once the subjective degrees of beliefs have been conditionalized on the values of the objective probabilities. The Principal Principle also has been used to analyze the concept of chance. The Principal Principle has been controversial ever since it was formulated; in particular, its consistency has been questioned and various attempts have been made to amend, modify and qualify it. The symposium is devoted to the discussion of the newest trends and results on the Principal Principle. The papers analyze in particular: different strategies that may be used to establish various versions of the Principal Principle; the compatibility of two new principles in connection with the Principal Principle (Epistemic Relevancy of High-order Explanations and Admissibility of High-order Explanations); and the abstract consistency of the Principal Principle in a measure theoretic framework of probability.
The scientific method revisited
This symposium will revisit one of the classical questions in the philosophy of science: is there something like 'the' scientific method, and if so, are there any grounds for thinking that we have an adequate conception of it or that we will be able to obtain one in the near future? Although such questions were at the forefront of the thoughts of some of the founding fathers of our discipline (e.g., Carnap, Popper and Kuhn), they have been largely side-lined in the past few decades by other, perhaps more specific and localized, concerns. Yet, questions about the scientific method ought to receive more attention within the philosophy of science: not only are they part-and-parcel of our teaching, but they are also something contemporary philosophers *of science* simply ought to have something to say about. This is why the symposium will seek to put questions about the scientific method back on the philosophical agenda.
Unifying the Mind-Brain Sciences
A renewed debate has been raging over whether and how to unify the mind-brain sciences (for starters, see the 2011 issue of Synthese on Neuroscience and Its Philosophy, and papers in preparation or forthcoming by the participants in the present symposium as well as Mazviita Chirimuuta, Carl Craver, Robert Cummins, Frances Egan, David Kaplan, and many others). To push the debate forward, several questions must be investigated. What explanatory roles do different areas of the mind-brain sciences play in advancing our understanding of cognitive and behavioral phenomena? Are practitioners in cognitive psychology and neuroscience engaged in the same explanatory project? Or, are the explanatory projects and investigative approaches of cognitive psychology and neuroscience sufficiently dissimilar yet equally important that the unification of cognitive psychology and neuroscience is neither feasible nor desirable? The participants in the proposed symposium aim to answer these questions via an evaluation of the explanatory, methodological and conceptual practices in the mind-brain sciences. The diverse array of philosophical approaches represented and areas of the mind-brain sciences considered are intended to stimulate lively discussion about the future and unity of the mind-brain sciences.
What kind of climate evidence does climate policy really need?
There is a trend in climate policy, at least in the UK, towards decisions that require, for justification, more and more detailed climate evidence. This leads to a demand for climate models to deliver such detailed climate evidence, typically projections of climate conditions in very precise geographical locations. An important question is whether such precise projections are warranted or whether they instead derail rational decision making. This symposium explores issues of climate-science methodology that underpin this question. In particular: What sorts of climate hypotheses (projections) can we plausibly investigate, and what methods and kinds of evidence are best for confirming such hypotheses? The five contributions to the symposium approach these questions from different angles. Two papers probe the issue of plausible climate hypotheses by considering sensitivity of projections to structural model error and by exploring whether it is better to focus on climate scenarios instead of precise local predictions. The remaining papers explore the power and limitations of confirmation practices for discriminating between the plausible climate hypotheses: one paper considers the value of 'observational' evidence that is itself the output of model(s), and the remaining papers investigate the usefulness and commitments of various 'model selection' methods for confirming climate hypotheses.
What's New in Network Analysis?
The symposium will discuss philosophical foundational issues of network analysis in an interdisciplinary setting. Network analysis is a mathematical tool which is increasingly being used in special sciences such as biology, ecology, neuroscience, computer science, economy to describe real-world systems, their elements and their interactions as graphs. Network analysis allows researchers to find mathematical features in the network representing a given system - properties such as small-world structures, scale-free structure - thus making the enormous complexity more tractable. The set of foundational questions we want to focus on are of the novelty, conditions and limits of network analysis as a tool for description, representation and explanation. This first symposium on network analysis at the PSA will systematically introduce a core set of questions and issues, discuss them by three philosophers of, respectively, mind, neuroscience and biology, who will confront the practice of two working scientists, in ecology and in neurosciences. This symposium will bring together a group of individuals who first independently and then collaboratively worked on these issues over the last three years, and hold different takes on network analysis.