PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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Darwin's Semantic Voyage

We explore the semantic space of algorithmically-generated topic models of books Charles Darwin read, to investigate his shifts between reading within a given domain and switching to new domains. Darwin's behavior shifts from exploitation to exploration on multiple timescales, and at the longest timescale these shifts correlate with major intellectual epochs of his career. Darwin's consumption of the texts is more exploratory than the culture's production of them. Using the same techniques, we demonstrate relationships among his writings and reading, confirming his own pronouncements about intellectual influences, and indicating how such evidence may help resolve scholarly questions about such influences.

Author Information:

Jaimie Murdock    
Cognitive Science
Indiana University

Colin Allen    
Dept of History & Philosophy of Science & Medicine
Indiana University

Simon DeDeo    
School of Informatics and Computing
Indiana University


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