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The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science Current Issue

Published: Mon, 21 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Last Build Date: Tue, 03 Oct 2017 13:03:23 GMT


Inclusive Fitness and the Maximizing-Agent Analogy


In social evolution theory, biological individuals are often represented on the model of rational agents, that is, as if they were ‘seeking’ to maximize their own (expected) reproductive success. In the 1990s, important criticisms of this mode of thinking were made by Brian Skyrms ([1994], [1996]) and Elliott Sober ([1998]), who both argued that ‘rational agent’ models can lead to incorrect predictions when there are positive correlations between individuals’ phenotypes. In this article, I argue that one model of rational choice—namely, Savage’s model ([1954])—can actually be vindicated in evolutionary biology, provided that the pay-offs are computed in inclusive fitness terms. I also show that the use of this model is better avoided when pay-offs are non-additive, or when certain causal influences (due to manipulative behaviours) affect the outcome of natural selection. The result is a partial rehabilitation of this mode of thinking, conditional on both the additivity of the pay-off structure and the absence of any form of manipulation or coercion.
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 When Natural Selection and Rational Deliberation Part Ways
  • 3 A Simple Solution: Redefining the Pay-offs in Inclusive Fitness Terms
  • 4 Sober on Inclusive Fitness Maximization
  • 5 Inclusive Fitness with Non-additive Pay-offs
  • 6 Causal Influences and the Savage– Hamilton Model
  • 6.1 Reciprocity and partner choice
  • 6.2 Coercion and manipulation
  • 7 Conclusion
  • Appendix 

Quantitative Parsimony: Probably for the Better


Our aim in this article is to offer a new justification for preferring theories that are more quantitatively parsimonious than their rivals. We discuss cases where it seems clear that those involved opted for more quantitatively parsimonious theories. We extend previous work on quantitative parsimony by offering an independent probabilistic justification for preferring the more quantitatively parsimonious theories in particular episodes of theory choice. Our strategy allows us to avoid worries that other considerations, such as pragmatic factors of computational tractability and so on, could be the driving ones in the historical cases under consideration.
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Three Desiderata
    • 2.1 Limiting
    • 2.2 Robustness
    • 2.3 Breadth
    • 2.3.1 A limited success for Baker
    • 2.3.2 Rejecting Baker’s analysis
    • 2.4 The proposal
  • 3 Probabilistically Additive Hypotheses and a (Sort of) Bayesian Account: The Limpid Rationale Relativized and Reconsidered
    • 3.1 Neutrinos and beta decay
    • 3.2 Avogadro’s hypothesis
    • 3.3 Postulation of Neptune
  • 4 Conclusion

The Metaphysics of Constitutive Mechanistic Phenomena


The central aim of this article is to specify the ontological nature of constitutive mechanistic phenomena (that is, of phenomena that are explained in constitutive mechanistic explanations). After identifying three criteria of adequacy that any plausible approach to constitutive mechanistic phenomena must satisfy, we present four different suggestions, found in the mechanistic literature, of what mechanistic phenomena might be. We argue that none of these suggestions meets the criteria of adequacy. According to our analysis, constitutive mechanistic phenomena are best understood as what we will call ‘object-involving occurrents’. Furthermore, on the basis of this notion, we will clarify what distinguishes constitutive mechanistic explanations from etiological ones.
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Criteria of Adequacy
  • 2.1 Descriptive adequacy
  • 2.2 Constitutive–etiological distinction
  • 2.3 Constitution
  • 3 The Ontological Nature of Constitutive Mechanistic Phenomena
  • 3.1 Phenomena as input–output relations
  • 3.2 Phenomena as end states
  • 3.3 Phenomena as dispositions
  • 3.4 Phenomena as behaviours
  • 4 Phenomena as Object-Involving Occurrents
  • 4.1 What object-involving occurrents are and why we need them
  • 4.2 The object in the phenomenon
  • 4.3 The adequacy of option (5)
  • 5 Conclusion

The Composition of Forces


ABSTRACTThis article defends a realist account of the composition of Newtonian forces, dubbed ‘residualism’. According to residualism, the resultant force acting on a body is identical to the component forces acting on it that do not prevent one another from bringing about the body's acceleration. Several reasons to favour residualism over alternative accounts of the composition of forces are advanced: (i) Residualism reconciles realism about component forces with realism about resultant forces, while avoiding any threat of causal over-determination. (ii) Residualism provides a systematic semantics for the term ‘force’ within Newtonian mechanics. (iii) Residualism allows us to precisely apportion the causal responsibility of each component force in the ensuing acceleration. (iv) Residualism handles special cases such as null forces, single forces, and antagonistic forces in a natural way. (v) Residualism provides a neat picture of the causal powers of forces. Each force essentially has two causal powers—the power to bring about accelerations (sometimes together with other co-directional forces) and the power to prevent other forces from doing so—exactly one of which is manifested at a time. (vi) Residualism avoids commitment to unobservable effects of forces, namely, forces cause either stresses (tensile or compressive) or accelerations. 1 Introduction2 Component Forces or Resultant Ones?2.1 Component forces versus resultant forces2.2 Two problems for generous realism3 Against Frugality (1): Semantic Unsystematicity3.1 The semantic problem for frugal resultant realism3.1.1 Do partial laws bear on resultant forces?3.1.2 Do partial laws bear on dispositions distinct from forces?3.2 The semantic problem for frugal component realism3.2.1 Does the second law bear on sets of component forces?3.2.2 Does the second law bear on individual component forces?4 Against Frugality (2): Causal Responsibility4.1 Apportioning causal responsibility4.2 Causal responsibility versus frugality5 Primivitism about Vectorial Composition5.1 Primitive vectorial composition5.2 First objection: causal responsibility5.3 Second objection: null forces6 Residualism6.1 Residualism introduced6.2 Residualism at work6.2.1 Antagonistic forces acting on a body6.2.2 Single force acting on a body6.2.3 Co-directional forces acting on a body6.2.4 Opposite forces acting on a body6.2.5 Two non-colinear forces acting on a body6.2.6 Three or more non-colinear forces acting on a body6.3 Residualism under stress6.3.1 Ad hoc?6.3.2 Circular?6.3.3 Inconsistent?6.3.4 Costly?7 Conclusion[...]

Contrastive Causal Claims: A Case Study


Contrastive and deviant/default accounts of causation are becoming increasingly common. However, discussions of these accounts have neglected important questions, including how the context determines the contrasts (or defaults), and what shared knowledge is necessary for this to be possible. I address these questions, using organic chemistry as a case study. Focusing on one example—nucleophilic substitution—I show that the kinds of causal claims that can be made about an organic reaction depend on how the reaction is modelled, and argue that paying attention to the various ways that reactions are modelled has important implications for our understanding of causation.
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 General Contrastive Causal Claims in Organic Chemistry
  • 3 Deviant Causal Claims in Organic Chemistry
  • 4 Nucleophilic Substitution Reactions
  • 5 The Causal Modelling Tradition
    • 5.1 The type/token distinction
  • 6 Competing Reactions
    • 6.1 Type- and token-causal claims, variables, and values of variables
  • 7 Disambiguation of ‘Reaction’
  • 8 Reaction Kinds
  • 9 Specific Reactions
    • 9.1 Specific reactions and token-causal claims
    • 9.2 Specific reactions and type-causal claims
  • 10 Implications
    • 10.1 Kinds of causal claim
    • 10.2 Contrastive and deviant causal claims
    • 10.3 Model relativity

Updating Probability: Tracking Statistics as Criterion


For changing opinion, represented by an assignment of probabilities to propositions, the criterion proposed is motivated by the requirement that the assignment should have, and maintain, the possibility of matching in some appropriate sense statistical proportions in a population. This ‘tracking’ criterion implies limitations on policies for updating in response to a wide range of types of new input. Satisfying the criterion is shown equivalent to the principle that the prior must be a convex combination of the possible posteriors. Furthermore, this is equivalent to the requirement that prior expected values must fall inside the range spanned by possible posterior expected values. The tracking criterion is liberal; it allows for, but does not require, a policy such as Bayesian conditionalization, and can be offered as a general constraint on policies for managing opinion over time. Examples are given of non-Bayesian policies, both ones that satisfy and ones that violate the criterion.
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Alternative Updating Policies
  • 3 Modelling the Situation for Normal Updating
  • 4 Tracking: A Criterion for Updating Policies
  • 5 Tracking: Precise Formulation and Relation to Convexity
  • 6 The Spanning Criterion
  • 7 Non-Bayesian Policies that Satisfy the Spanning and Tracking Criteria
  • 8 Policies that Violate the Spanning and Tracking Criteria Appendix
  • Appendix 

What Becomes of a Causal Set?


Unlike the relativity theory it seeks to replace, causal set theory (CST) has been interpreted to leave space for a substantive, though perhaps ‘localized’, form of ‘becoming’. The possibility of fundamental becoming is nourished by the fact that the analogue of Stein’s theorem from special relativity does not hold in CST. Despite this, we find that in many ways, the debate concerning becoming parallels the well-rehearsed lines it follows in the domain of relativity. We present, however, some new twists and challenges. In particular, we show that a novel and exotic notion of becoming is compatible with causal sets. In contrast to the localized becoming considered compatible with the dynamics of CST by its advocates, our novel kind of becoming, while not answering to the typical A-theoretic demands, is global and objective.
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 The Basics of Causal Set Theory
  • 3 Facing the Same Dilemma?
  • 4 Taking Growth Seriously
  • 5 Conclusion

Constraints on Rational Theory Choice


In a recent article, Samir Okasha presented an argument that suggests that there is no rational way to choose among scientific theories. This would seriously undermine the view that science is a rational enterprise. In this article, I show how a suitably nuanced view of what scientific rationality requires allows us to sidestep this argument. In doing so, I present a new argument in favour of voluntarism of the type favoured by van Fraassen. I then show how such a view of scientific rationality gives a precise interpretation of what Thomas Kuhn thought.
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Okasha’s Argument
  • 3 Rationality Can Be Silent
  • 4 Arrow Undermined
  • 5 The Informational-Basis Escape
  • 6 Theory Choice at the Level of the Individual Scientist
  • 7 Kuhn Vindicated
  • 8 Trade-offs and Partial Commensurability
  • 9 Conclusion

Curve-Fitting for Bayesians?


Bayesians often assume, suppose, or conjecture that for any reasonable explication of the notion of simplicity a prior can be designed that will enforce a preference for hypotheses simpler in just that sense. But it is shown here that there are simplicity-driven approaches to curve-fitting problems that cannot be captured within the orthodox Bayesian framework.
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 A Curve-Fitting Problem
  • 3 No Bayesian Polly
  • 4 Prospects for a Generalized Bayesian Polly
    • 4.1 Imprecise credences
    • 4.2 Merely finitely additive probability measures
    • 4.3 Hierarchical Bayesianism
    • 4.4 Primitive conditional probabilities
    • 4.5 Infinitesimal-valued probability measures
  • 5 How Damaging?
    • 5.1 Who cares about Polly?
    • 5.2 Who cares about this curve-fitting problem?
    • 5.3 Who cares about curve-fitting?

Mediated Confirmation


This article aims to achieve two things: to identify the conditions for transitivity in probabilistic support in various settings, and to uncover the components and structure of the mediated probabilistic relation. It is shown that when the probabilistic relation between the two propositions, x and z, is mediated by multiple layers of partitions of propositions, the impact x has on z consists of the purely indirect impact, the purely bypass impact, and the mixed impact. It is also shown that although mediated confirmation as a whole is not transitive, the indirect part of mediated confirmation is transitive.
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 The Structure of the Mediated Probabilistic Relation
  • 3 Transitivity and Anti-transitivity
  • 4 Bypass Disconfirmation
  • 5 Horizontal Generalization
  • 6 Coarse Screens
  • 7 Vertical Generalization
  • 8 Conclusion
  • Appendix 

After Fifty Years, Why Are Protein X-ray Crystallographers Still in Business?


It has long been held that the structure of a protein is determined solely by the interactions of the atoms in the sequence of amino acids of which it is composed, and thus the stable, biologically functional conformation should be predictable by ab initio or de novo methods. However, except for small proteins, ab initio predictions have not been successful. We explain why this is the case and argue that the relationship among the different methods, models, and representations of protein structure is one of integrative pluralism. Our defence appeals to specific features of the complexity of the functional protein structure and to the partial character of representation in general. We present examples of integrative strategies in protein science.
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Partiality of Representation
  • 3. Protein Functional Complexity
  • 4. Modelling Protein Structure
    • 4.1 Integrating ab initio and experimental models
    • 4.2 Integrating multiple experimental models
  • 5. Conclusion

Similarities as Evidence for Common Ancestry: A Likelihood Epistemology


Darwin claims in the Origin that similarity is evidence for common ancestry, but that adaptive similarities are ‘almost valueless’ as evidence. This second claim seems reasonable for some adaptive similarities but not for others. Here we clarify and evaluate these and related matters by using the law of likelihood as an analytic tool and by considering mathematical models of three evolutionary processes: directional selection, stabilizing selection, and drift. Our results apply both to Darwin’s theory of evolution and to modern evolutionary biology.
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 The Likelihood Framework
  • 3 A Sufficient Condition for a Similarity to Favour Common Ancestry over Separate Ancestry
  • 4 The 1/p Criterion and Its Limitations
  • 5 Directional Selection versus Drift
  • 6 Stabilizing Selection versus Drift
  • 7 Going beyond Two Taxa
  • 8 Conclusions
  • Appendix