Peter Machamer is professor of history and philosophy of science at the University of Pittsburgh. He is coeditor, with Gereon Wolters, of Thinking about Causes: From Greek Philosophy to Modern Physics and Science, Values, and Objectivity, among other books.
The act of interpretation occurs in nearly every area of the arts and sciences. That ubiquity serves as the inspiration for the fourteen essays of this volume, covering many of the domains in which interpretive practices are found. Individual topics include: the general nature of interpretation and its forms; comparing and contrasting interpretation and hermeneutics; culture as interpretation seen through Hegel’s aesthetics; interpreting philosophical texts; methodologies for interpreting human action; interpretation in medical practice focusing on manifestations as indicators of disease; the brain and its interpretative, structured, learning and storage processes; interpreting hybrid wines and cognitive preconceptions of novel objects; and the importance of sensory perception as means of interpreting in the case of dry German Rieslings.
In an interesting turn, Nicholas Rescher writes on the interpretation of philosophical texts. Then Catherine Wilson and Andreas Blank explicate and critique Rescher’s theories through analysis of the mill passage from Leibniz’s Monadology.
Leading scholars in the fields of philosophy and the sciences of the mind have contributed to this newest volume in the prestigious Pittsburgh-Konstanz series. Among the problem areas discussed are folk psychology, meanings as conceptual structures, functional and qualitative properties of colors, the role of conscious mental states, representation and mental content, the impact of connectionism on the philosophy of the mind, and supervenience, emergence, and realization. Most of the essays are followed by commentaries that reflect ongoing debates in the philosophy of the mind and often develop a counterpoint to the claims of the essayists.
Few people, if any, still argue that science in all its aspects is a value-free endeavor. At the very least, values affect decisions about the choice of research problems to investigate and the uses to which the results of research are applied. But what about the actual doing of science?As Science, Values, and Objectivity reveals, the connections and interactions between values and science are quite complex. The essays in this volume identify the crucial values that play a role in science, distinguish some of the criteria that can be used for value identification, and elaborate the conditions for warranting certain values as necessary or central to the very activity of scientific research.Recently, social constructivists have taken the presence of values within the scientific model to question the basis of objectivity. However, the contributors to Science, Values, and Objectivity recognize that such acknowledgment of the role of values does not negate the fact that objects exist in the world. Objects have the power to constrain our actions and thoughts, though the norms for these thoughts lie in the public, social world.Values may be decried or defended, praised or blamed, but in a world that strives for a modicum of reason, values, too, must be reasoned. Critical assessment of the values that play a role in scientific research is as much a part of doing good science as interpreting data.
Emerging as a hot topic in the mid-twentieth century, causality is one of the most frequently discussed issues in contemporary philosophy. Causality has been a central concept in philosophy as well as in the sciences, especially the natural sciences, dating back to its beginning in Greek thought. David Hume famously claimed that causality is the cement of the universe. In general terms, it links eventualities, predicts the consequences of action, and is the cognitive basis for the acquisition and the use of categories and concepts in the child. Indeed, how could one answer why-questions, around which early rational thought begins to revolve, without hitting on the relationships between reason and consequence, cause and effect, or without drawing these distinctions? But a comprehensive definition of causality has been notoriously hard to provide, and virtually every aspect of causation has been subject to much debate and analysis.Thinking About Causes brings together top philosophers from the United States and Europe to focus on causality as a major force in philosophical and scientific thought. Topics addressed include: ancient Stoicism and moral philosophy; the case of sacramental causality; traditional causal concepts in Descartes; Kant on transcendental laws; the influence of J. S. Mill’s politics on his concept of causation; plurality in causality; causality in modern physics; causality in economics; and the concept of free will.Taken together, the essays in this collection provide the best current thinking about causality, especially as it relates to the philosophy of science.
Theory and Method in the Neurosciences surveys the nature and structure of theories in contemporary neuroscience, exploring many of its methodological techniques and problems. The essays explore basic questions about how to relate theories of neuroscience and cognition, the multilevel character of such theories, and their experimental bases. Philosophers and scientists (and some who are both) examine the topics of explanation and mechanisms, simulation and computation, imaging and animal models that raise questions about the forefront of research in cognitive neuroscience. Their work will stimulate new thinking in anyone interested in the mind or brain and in recent theories of their connections.