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Molecular Models Of Life

Author: Sarkar
Publisher: MIT Press
ISBN: 9780262264730
Size: 51.33 MB
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Despite the transformation in biological practice and theory brought about by discoveries in molecular biology, until recently philosophy of biology continued to focus on evolutionary biology. When the Human Genome Project got underway in the late 1980s and early 1990s, philosophers of biology -- unlike historians and social scientists -- had little to add to the debate. In this landmark collection of essays, Sahotra Sarkar broadens the scope of current discussions of the philosophy of biology, viewing molecular biology as a unifying perspective on life that complements that of evolutionary biology. His focus is on molecular biology, but the overriding question behind these papers is what molecular biology contributes to all traditional areas of biological research.Molecular biology -- described with some foresight in a 1938 Rockefeller Foundation report as a branch of science in which "delicate modern techniques are being used to investigate ever more minute details" -- and its modeling strategies apparently argue in favor of physical reductionism. Sarkar's first three chapters explore reductionism -- defending it, but cautioning that reduction to molecular interactions is not necessarily a reduction to genetics (and does not support the claims of either heriditarianism or environmentalism). The next sections of the book discuss function, exploring how functional explanations pose a problem for reductionism; the informational interpretation of biology and how it interacts with reductionism; and the tension between the unifying framework of molecular biology and the received framework of evolutionary theory. The concluding chapter is an essay in the emerging field of developmental evolution, exploring what molecular biology may contribute to the transformation of evolutionary theory as evolutionary theory takes into account morphogenetic development.

A Mark Of The Mental

Author: Karen Neander
Publisher: MIT Press
ISBN: 0262036142
Size: 78.80 MB
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In A Mark of the Mental, Karen Neander considers the representational power of mental states -- described by the cognitive scientist Zenon Pylyshyn as the "second hardest puzzle" of philosophy of mind (the first being consciousness). The puzzle at the heart of the book is sometimes called "the problem of mental content," "Brentano's problem," or "the problem of intentionality." Its motivating mystery is how neurobiological states can have semantic properties such as meaning or reference. Neander proposes a naturalistic account for sensory-perceptual (nonconceptual) representations. Neander draws on insights from state-space semantics (which appeals to relations of second-order similarity between representing and represented domains), causal theories of reference (which claim the reference relation is a causal one), and teleosemantic theories (which claim that semantic norms, at their simplest, depend on functional norms). She proposes and defends an intuitive, theoretically well-motivated but highly controversial thesis: sensory-perceptual systems have the function to produce inner state changes that are the analogs of as well as caused by their referents. Neander shows that the three main elements -- functions, causal-information relations, and relations of second-order similarity -- complement rather than conflict with each other. After developing an argument for teleosemantics by examining the nature of explanation in the mind and brain sciences, she develops a theory of mental content and defends it against six main content-determinacy challenges to a naturalized semantics.

Rock Bone And Ruin

Author: Adrian Currie
Publisher: MIT Press
ISBN: 0262037262
Size: 49.10 MB
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"The Earth's deep past is a fascinating place to visit, both disturbingly alien and hauntingly familiar. In its life, the Earth has frozen solid, supported enormous animals (themselves sporting enormous fleas!), accommodated a diversity of cultures, and a diversity of ways-of-living. Rock, Bone & Ruin asks how much we can know about the deep past. To answer this, we need to understand the resources at our disposal: how do historical scientists like paleontologists, archaeologists and geologists learn about prehistory? Most people think of simple relationships--such as that between a fossilized bone and its long-dead owner--when they consider historical evidence. However, I argue that such scientists are best understood as 'methodological omnivores': they are creative, opportunistic and use a variety of different strategies and techniques. The reasoning used by historical scientists is much more diverse and complex than we have previously realized. And this supports optimism about our capacity to discover the deep past: our knowledge of it shall continue to grow. Along the way, we critically examine philosophical and scientific reflection on the relationship between the past and the present, the nature of evidence, contingency, scientific progress and scientific. Further, I provide suggestions about the value of knowledge about the past--including how it can inform us in the present and into the future--and how such sciences are best supported. The argument draws on fascinating examples from across paleontology, geology and archaeology"--

What S Left Of Human Nature

Author: Maria Kronfeldner
Publisher: MIT Press
ISBN: 0262038412
Size: 28.34 MB
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A philosophical account of human nature that defends the concept against dehumanization, Darwinian, and developmentalist challenges. Human nature has always been a foundational issue for philosophy. What does it mean to have a human nature? Is the concept the relic of a bygone age? What is the use of such a concept? What are the epistemic and ontological commitments people make when they use the concept? In What's Left of Human Nature? Maria Kronfeldner offers a philosophical account of human nature that defends the concept against contemporary criticism. In particular, she takes on challenges related to social misuse of the concept that dehumanizes those regarded as lacking human nature (the dehumanization challenge); the conflict between Darwinian thinking and essentialist concepts of human nature (the Darwinian challenge); and the consensus that evolution, heredity, and ontogenetic development result from nurture and nature. After answering each of these challenges, Kronfeldner presents a revisionist account of human nature that minimizes dehumanization and does not fall back on outdated biological ideas. Her account is post-essentialist because it eliminates the concept of an essence of being human; pluralist in that it argues that there are different things in the world that correspond to three different post-essentialist concepts of human nature; and interactive because it understands nature and nurture as interacting at the developmental, epigenetic, and evolutionary levels. On the basis of this, she introduces a dialectical concept of an ever-changing and “looping” human nature. Finally, noting the essentially contested character of the concept and the ambiguity and redundancy of the terminology, she wonders if we should simply eliminate the term “human nature” altogether.

Investigating The Psychological World

Author: Brian D. Haig
Publisher: MIT Press
ISBN: 0262027364
Size: 48.10 MB
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A broad theory of research methodology for psychology and the behavioral sciences that offers a coherent treatment of a range of behavioral research methods.

A Companion To The Philosophy Of Biology

Author: Sahotra Sarkar
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
ISBN: 1444337858
Size: 31.41 MB
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Comprised of essays by top scholars in the field, this volume offers detailed overviews of philosophical issues raised by biology. Brings together a team of eminent scholars to explore the philosophical issues raised by biology Addresses traditional and emerging topics, spanning molecular biology and genetics, evolution, developmental biology, immunology, ecology, mind and behaviour, neuroscience, and experimentation Begins with a thorough introduction to the field Goes beyond previous treatments that focused only on evolution to give equal attention to other areas, such as molecular and developmental biology Represents both an authoritative guide to philosophy of biology, and an accessible reference work for anyone seeking to learn about this rapidly-changing field

The Native Mind And The Cultural Construction Of Nature

Author: Scott Atran
Publisher: Mit Press
ISBN:
Size: 11.40 MB
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An analysis of the cognitive consequences of diminished contact with nature examines the relationship between how people think about the natural world and how they act on it, and how these are affected by cultural differences.

Evolutionary Psychology As Maladapted Psychology

Author: Robert C. Richardson
Publisher: Bradford Books
ISBN:
Size: 28.34 MB
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Human beings, like other organisms, are the products of evolution. Like other organisms, we exhibit traits that are the product of natural selection. Our psychological capacities are evolved traits as much as are our gait and posture. This much few would dispute. Evolutionary psychology goes further than this, claiming that our psychological traits -- including a wide variety of traits, from mate preference and jealousy to language and reason -- can be understood as specific adaptations to ancestral Pleistocene conditions. In Evolutionary Psychology as Maladapted Psychology, Robert Richardson takes a critical look at evolutionary psychology by subjecting its ambitious and controversial claims to the same sorts of methodological and evidential constraints that are broadly accepted within evolutionary biology. The claims of evolutionary psychology may pass muster as psychology; but what are their evolutionary credentials? Richardson considers three ways adaptive hypotheses can be evaluated, using examples from the biological literature to illustrate what sorts of evidence and methodology would be necessary to establish specific evolutionary and adaptive explanations of human psychological traits. He shows that existing explanations within evolutionary psychology fall woefully short of accepted biological standards. The theories offered by evolutionary psychologists may identify traits that are, or were, beneficial to humans. But gauged by biological standards, there is inadequate evidence: evolutionary psychologists are largely silent on the evolutionary evidence relevant to assessing their claims, including such matters as variation in ancestral populations, heritability, and the advantage offered to our ancestors. As evolutionary claims they are unsubstantiated. Evolutionary psychology, Richardson concludes, may offer a program of research, but it lacks the kind of evidence that is generally expected within evolutionary biology. It is speculation rather than sound science -- and we should treat its claims with skepticism.