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Mechanistic explanations of personality functioning span a broad range, as is evidenced in the thoughtful commentary provided by Crowell et al. Mechanistic explanations of behavior and experience are complicated, however, by vague boundaries between potential causes and effects, across different levels of analysis as well as within the same level. This vagueness creates challenges in developing theories of how factors at lower levels of analysis are related to those at higher levels of analysis, as well as in disentangling causes and effects in general. Personality pathology is further complicated by relatively rare or even unique psychological and behavioral patterns of interest, and the long timescales over which development occurs. These challenges are important targets for future research on mechanistic explanations of personality.
Reece discusses Diogenes of Apollonia’s claim that “all existing things are differentiated from the same thing and are the same thing” (DK 64B2, Simp. Phys. 151.31–32), namely air. He examines Diogenes’ principle that causal interaction and change require some sort of uniformity among the relata, and considers the questions which this principle raises.
King explores the reflection in both Plato and Aristotle on styles of causal explanation in the explanation of nature, and examines several texts in which they react to theories of natural necessity in this context. He also reviews the influence of Werner Jaeger’s scholarship on the question of Aristotle’s relation to authors in the Hippocratic Corpus.
Frank Neubacher looks at theories of punishment in international criminal law from a criminologist's perspective. He addresses three interconnected issues: The purpose of punishment, the explanation of international crimes, and sentencing. As regards the former, he is a strong advocate of a combination of different preventive theories as rationale for (international) punishment, but adds elements of restorative justice. Regarding the explanation of international crimes, he distinguishes three levels: the macro-, meso- and micro-level, connected to the system, the group and the individual, respectively. For Neubacher, it is most important to emphasize that collective violence, in which international crimes are being committed, is a situational process. He explains that when it comes to mass atrocities the perpetrator’s behaviour is illegal, but socially not deviant. Finally, as regards the reaction to international crimes, Neubacher explains that for a deterrent effect to ensue, the certainty of punishment is decisive, not the severity. Regarding the sentencing decisions, he sees a disregard of the individual perpetrator’s circumstances and proposes a more nuanced model of liability (and, thus, culpability) which takes into account the hierarchical position of the perpetrators as well as his or her discretional power.
When children ask questions, learning may occur, a connection that has led some researchers to posit that children’s questions are a mechanism of cognitive development. There is an implicit assumption of universality in this view. Yet much of the research on this topic has been conducted in cultural settings where children’s questions are encouraged and supported. In this chapter, we discuss children’s questions as a form of social and cultural behavior. We draw on theories of language socialization to emphasize how, over development, children learn to use language in ways that are appropriate in the sociocultural setting in which they live. We describe evidence from a sample of 96 three- and five-year–old children living in four traditional communities, Garifuna (Belize), Logoli (Kenya), Newars (Nepal), and Samoans (American Samoa), that suggests there may be substantial differences across developmental contexts in children’s question-asking behavior, especially questions that seek explanation. We do not take issue with the idea that children have great curiosity about the world, a characteristic that leads them to seek out opportunities for learning. Rather, we are concerned with the form this curiosity takes and its relation to the social and cultural context of development.
This chapter describes a growing body of work that demonstrates the efficacy of specific questions (“why” “why else?” and “what if?”) in supporting children’s ability to access their intuitive reasoning skills and apply them to tasks involving sophisticated causal and scientific thinking. We describe distinct mechanisms by which each of these questions results in unique types of inferences, and argue that each one has selective effects on a learner’s inferences, depending upon the evidence available, the state of their prior knowledge, and the relation of that prior knowledge to the true state of the world. We begin with a brief review of the well-established research on the efficacy of prompts for explanation, focusing on the developmental literature. We then offer a novel proposal, drawing on the adult research, that engaging children in the evaluation of alternative outcomes via prompting for multiple explanations or engagement with counterfactuals may provide a different avenue for fostering distinct sets of causal reasoning skills. Finally, we turn to a discussion of the relation between the content and process of children’s reasoning in response to these questions, and end with some suggestions for future research.
Two crucial human cognitive goals are to understand and to learn. Both goals often require active management, actively questing for knowledge. Children’s questions, both purposeful and incidental, both verbal and nonverbal, do this. Questions start early in life, change in nature and influence, but powerfully impact cognitive development all along the way. Often they do so as an antecedent and a consequence of children’s investment in explanatory understanding. I use my research and the research of my collaborators to address these topics as well as describe several of the steps and processes whereby questions and explanations drive the development of children’s comprehension and learning.
The chapter introduces the iterative conception, according to which every set appears at one level or another of the mathematical structure known as the cumulative hierarchy, as well as theories based on the conception. The chapter presents various accounts of the iterative conception: the constructivist account, the dependency account and my own minimalist account. It is argued that the minimalist account is to be preferred to the others. A method – which I call inference to the best conception – is then described to defend the correctness of the iterative conception so understood. This method requires one to show that the iterative conception fares better than other conceptions with respect to a number of desiderata on conceptions of set. This provides additional motivation for exploring alternative conceptions of set in the remainder of the book.
Psychology is part of a larger problem of science today. Science is simultaneously under-appreciated and lacking in credibility. The latter exacerbates the former but does not fully explain it. The credibility problems take many forms, from unreplicable results to outright fraud. A partial solution to both problems is to step back and consider science as an application of actively open-minded thinking (AOT). AOT is a standard for good thinking (both critical and constructive), which is designed to avoid common deficiencies such as bias toward pet conclusions and overconfidence in conclusions reached so far. In AOT, search for evidence, alternatives and goals is fair, and confidence is based on what has been achieved so far. AOT is consistent with ideal scientific practice. Since AOT also provides a standard for evaluation of sources when people cannot think through everything on their own, the dependence of science on AOT ought to inspire trust in its conclusions (including their uncertainties). Yet, scientific practice can be improved in ways that make science conform more closely to the standards of AOT, such as thinking of itself as asking questions rather than testing predictions.
I argue that the concept of scientific explanation constitutes one of McCarthy’s central concerns in the Border Trilogy and that classical thought can be utilized to show that his position is remarkably similar to the Pre-Socratic philosopher, Heraclitus. I show that both McCarthy and Heraclitus share a desire to reject the ontological reductionism of naturalism, yet at the same time avoid the ontological dualism of thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Descartes. The case for McCarthy’s Heracliteanism is made by analyzing his 2017 piece on the origin of language, “The Kekule Problem: Where Did Language Come From?” I conclude that the position put forth in the first non-fiction piece of McCarthy’s career offers a framework for interpreting the central concerns of the Border Trilogy that is decidedly Heraclitean.
In the literature seeking to explain concepts in terms of their point, talk of ‘the point’ of concepts remains under-theorised. I propose a typology of points which distinguishes practical, evaluative, animating, and inferential points. This allows us to resolve tensions such as that between the ambition of explanations in terms of the points of concepts to be informative and the claim that mastering concepts requires grasping their point; and it allows us to exploit connections between types of points to understand why they come apart, and whether they do so for problematic ideological reasons or for benignly functional reasons.
David Armstrong accepted the following three theses: universals are immanent, laws are relations between universals, and laws govern. Taken together, they form an attractive position, for they promise to explain regularities in nature—one of the most important desiderata for a theory of laws and properties—while remaining compatible with naturalism. However, I argue that the three theses are incompatible. The basic idea is that each thesis makes an explanatory claim, but the three claims can be shown to run in a problematic circle. I then consider which thesis we ought to reject (hint: see the title) and suggest some general lessons for the metaphysics of laws.
In the spirit of modal scepticism, Peter Hawke offers a modal epistemology, the safe explanation theory (SET), which takes the form of modal empiricism. By employing SET, he tries to defend enumerative induction (EI): it is reasonable to believe that any X is F on the basis of a sufficiently large sample in which any X is F. In this paper, I argue that Hawke’s defence fails. Moreover, I point out a problem with SET, which results in this failure: SET is too strict to account for some possibility claims that we are entitled to believe.
Algorithmic accountability has emerged as a package of legal ideas that, on one hand, attempt to impose administrative law mechanisms such as transparency and due process on automated decision-making systems, and on the other hand, has developed computational approaches to constraining machine learning. In particular, by ensuring the complex computational analysis of individuals through machine learning models occurs more ‘fairly’, and is more explainable. As well as describing the necessity for computational legal implementations that actively constrain how data processing occurs, the chapter argues that there are risks that these mechanisms may involve ceding to data science and its corporate stakeholders the epistemological terrain as to what types of calculations are ‘fair’ and what type of information is an ‘explanation’.
The argument from absence of analysis (AAA) infers primitivism about some x from the absence of a reductive analysis of x. But philosophers use the word ‘primitive’ to mean many distinct things. I argue that there is a robust sense of ‘primitive’ present in the metaphysics literature that cannot be inferred via the AAA. Successfully demonstrating robust primitivism about some x requires showing two things at once: that a reduction of x is not possible and that an explanatorily deep characterization of x is not available. In order to secure this second explanatory claim, the AAA must wrongly assume that reductive analysis is our only source of explanatory characterization. I argue that this is false by offering a distinct way of providing explanatory characterizations backed by suitably understood metaphysical constraints. While there remains a minimal sense of ‘primitive’ inferable via the AAA, this sense is exhausted by the denial of reduction. With minimal primitivism as its target, the AAA is uninteresting.
Chapter Three analyses the ‘theoretical’ connections that many physical-psychical scientists made between ‘physics and psychics’. It analyses general physical arguments against philosophical materialism and other ‘stumbling blocks’ to the idea of mind and spirit in the cosmos; vague analogies between physical and psychical effects; and more radical physical theories and explanations of telepathy and other psychical phenomena. The chapter highlights the extrordinary creativity of physical scientists in applying their concepts, ideas and theories to psychical puzzles. It also examines the criticism that many physicsts levelled against such psychical uses of physics and argues that while leading physical-psychical scientists accepted many of the problems with physical theories of largely non-physical phenomena, they never completely abandoned the idea that some kind of physical theory would ultimately help render psychical effects more intelligible.
Experimental social psychologists often claim Kurt Lewin as the founder of modern social psychology. This chapter looks at the influences of his teacher, the philosopher Ernst Cassirer, and his friendship with Karl Korsch, the Marxist philosopher. Lewin rejected conventional laboratory experiments as being unscientific, and he developed a form of experiment to examine concrete cases. Lewin’s famous study of democratic and authoritarian leadership shows both the strengths and weaknesses of his new psychology. The strength was the richness of its examples, and the weakness was his physics-based theory for understanding those examples. Focussing on one example, it is argued that Lewin would have gained a richer understanding of what was happening if he had used a bit more Korsch and Cassirer - especially Cassirer’s ideas on psychology and his views on description as explanation. Lewin is praised for his humane, dedicated vision and for being an example to follow.
This essay argues that the logical significance of most natural language expressions is indefinitely elastic. This, it is argued, undermines the idea that the meaning of a word is an item for which it stands, and puts pressure on the methods of conceptual analysis and theoretical elucidation that require context-invariant stable application conditions. Furthermore, it is argued that the insistence that such semantic content is needed which—impervious to local pragmatic concerns—remains stable and available for reasoning, gets things back to front. For in order to determine the correct inflection of any given use of an expression, its inferential relations—in the context of an utterance—must already be discerned. The lack of contextually independent content, however, presents no mystery about language use. For the ability to understand what is said is explained not only by shared practices and common interests, but also by the capacity for interlocutors to ask questions and explain what they mean.
Wittgenstein has often been ascribed a ‘use-theory of meaning’. However, he explicitly renounced theory construction. Furthermore, his slogan ‘Don’t ask for the meaning, ask for the use!’ invites circumventing the question ‘What is meaning?’ altogether. This chapter argues that, Wittgenstein’s ambivalence notwithstanding, there is no merit in avoiding the title question (‘What is meaning?’). Moreover, it is argued that, while Wittgenstein’s reflections are incompatible with a formal theory of meaning, they do lay the foundations of a viable account of the concept of linguistic meaning, namely by elucidating its connections with other concepts like those of rule, explanation, and understanding. The chapter makes a case for a use-theory thus understood.
This essay begins by dividing the traditional problem of free will and determinism into a “correlation” problem and an “explanation” problem. I then focus on the explanation problem, and argue that a standard form of abductive reasoning (that is, inference to the best explanation) may be useful in solving it. To demonstrate the fruitfulness of the abductive approach, I apply it to three standard accounts of free will. While each account implies the same solution to the correlation problem, each implies a unique solution to the explanationproblem. For example, all libertarian-friendly accounts of free will imply that it is impossible to act freely when determinism is true. However, only a narrow subset of libertarians have the theoretical resources to defend the incompatibilist claim that deterministic laws (qua deterministic) undermine free will, while other libertarians must reject this traditional incompatibilist view.