Subscribe: The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science - Advance Access
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The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science Advance Access

Published: Thu, 16 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Last Build Date: Thu, 16 Nov 2017 07:51:51 GMT


Signals That Make a Difference


Recent work by Brian Skyrms offers a very general way to think about how information flows and evolves in biological networks—from the way monkeys in a troop communicate, to the way cells in a body coordinate their actions. A central feature of his account is a way to formally measure the quantity of information contained in the signals in these networks. In this paper, we argue there is a tension between how Skyrms talks of signaling networks and his formal measure of information. Although Skyrms refers to both how information flows through networks and that signals carry information, we show that his formal measure only captures the latter. We then suggest that to capture the notion of flow in signalling networks, we need to treat them as causal networks. This provides the formal tools to define a measure that does capture flow, and we do so by drawing on recent work defining causal specificity. Finally, we suggest that this new measure is crucial if we wish to explain how evolution creates information. For signals to play a role in explaining their own origins and stability, they can’t just carry information about acts; they must be difference-makers for acts.

Games and Kinds


In response to those who argue for ‘property cluster’ views of natural kinds, I use evolutionary models of sim-max games to assess the claim that linguistic terms will appropriately track sets of objects that cluster in property spaces. As I show, there are two sorts of ways this can fail to happen. First, evolved terms that do respect property structure in some senses can be conventional nonetheless. Second, and more crucially, because the function of linguistic terms is to facilitate successful action in the world, when such success is based on something other than property clusters, we should not expect our terms to track those clusters. The models help make this second point salient by highlighting a dubious assumption underlying some versions of the cluster kinds view—that property clusters lead to successful generalization and induction in a straightforward way. As I point out, those who support property cluster kinds as natural can revert to a promiscuous realism in response to these observations.

On Social Tolerance and the Evolution of Human Normative Guidance


Discussions about the evolution of human social cognition usually portray the social environment of early hominins as highly hierarchical and violent. In this evolutionary narrative, our propensity for violence was overcome in our lineage by an increase in our intellectual capacities. However, I will argue in this article that we are at least equally justified in believing that our early hominin ancestors were less aggressive and hierarchical than is suggested in these models. This view is consistent with the available comparative and palaeoanthropological evidence. I will show that this alternative model not only does not support long-held views of human origins, but also has important consequences for debates about the evolution of our capacity for normative guidance.
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Philosophical Motivation
  • 3 The Puzzle of Hominin Evolution
  • 4 The Mosaic Hypothesis
  • 5 Evidence for the Model
  • 6 Palaeoanthropological Support
  • 7 Philosophical Consequences