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::: center home >> events >> lunchtime >> 2012-13 >> abstracts>>October

October 2012 Lunchtime Abstracts & Details

::: To have an effect of one’s own … Causal complexity and reconstituting the phenomena
Maria Kronfeldner
Center Visiting Fellow
University of Bielefeld

Tuesday, October 2, 2012
12:05 pm, 817R Cathedral of Learning

Abstract: Causal complexity entails that one cause has many effects and that many causes are involved in the causation of one effect. We can react to it in (at least) two ways: (1) by selectively focusing on one or a couple of particular causes and (2) by dividing the phenomenon into parts that are more tractable. Both strategies beat complexity by a partitioning of either the explanans or the explanandum. Divide and conquer… As a result, we get (in the limit) a quite simplified picture: effects that ‘have a cause of their own’ and causes that ‘have an effect of their own’. Causal selection will largely be set aside in this talk. The focus will be on the second strategy, i.e. ways of reconstituting the phenomena. When we use it, we are guided by epistemic values. But which values are these and what kinds of reconstituting the phenomena can we delineate? How can we partition an explanandum to make it (and the corresponding explanation) more suitable for what we can (or want to) achieve, i.e. more fine-grained, more specific, or more general, etc.? How do levels of analysis and the autonomy of disciplines enter this business of explanatory partitioning? These are the questions the paper aims to address. Examples are from behavioral genetics and norms of reaction studies. The traditional nature-nurture debate and the use of the concept of endophenotypes in this research field are used as cases in point. To approach the questions addressed, I will use an interventionst frame. The overall goal of the paper is to analyze in which sense explanatory partitioning, as a general epistemic strategy to beat complexity, is guided by explanatory values (such as stability, proximity, depth, generality, or specificity), how these values relate to each other, and whether they are instrumental for further epistemic values (such as parsimony, predictive fruitfulness, and the like). 


::: Against Statistical Accounts of Special Science Laws
Alexander Reutlinger
Center Visiting Fellow
University of Cologne

Tuesday, October 9, 2012
12:05 pm, 817R Cathedral of Learning

Abstract: John Earman and John T. Roberts advocate a challenging and radical claim regarding the semantics of laws in the special sciences: the statistical account (also Schurz 2002, Spohn 2002, 2012, Loewer 2008).  According to this account, a typical special science law “asserts a certain precisely defined statistical relation among well-defined variables” (Earman and Roberts 1999). Earman and Roberts claim that these statistical generalizations do not suffer from any troubled ceteris paribus hedge. Philosophers of science, they argue, have plainly been mistaken to believe that ceteris paribus conditions are indispensable for an account of “lawish” generalizations in the special sciences.

I will raise three objections to the statistical account: first, there aren't "enough probabilities" in order for the statistical account to work. Second, the statistical account fails to straightforwardly provide truth-conditions for idealized generalizations (of which there are many in the special sciences). Third, I argue that understanding special science laws as probabilistic generalizations does not replace ceteris paribus conditions.


::: The Philosophy of Cancer: Towards a Systemic Approach in Cancer Research
Marta Bertolaso
Center Visiting Fellow
University Campus Bio-Medico of Rome

Friday, October 12, 2012
12:05 pm, 817R Cathedral of Learning

Abstract: The biological complexity of cancer has been pushing interpretative models of cancer towards systemic perspectives. However, opposing views on carcinogenesis can still be found in the literature. In the first part of the talk I will explore some implications of the debate about reductionism in cancer research and discuss the main features of complex systems that justify the debate. In the second part I suggest that elements to overcome the debate are already emerging in literature and clarifying the conceptual foundations of a systemic approach. From this perspective it is easier to overcome some aspects of the reductionism/anti-reductionism debate and to go forward in developing epistemological tools to better explain how different levels of biological organization are functionally integrated and kept coherent.


::: Hijacking the Emotional Brain
Karen Shanor

Tuesday, October 23, 2012
12:05 pm, 817R Cathedral of Learning

Abstract:  Following a brief review of some of the latest findings about the emotions of various animal species, the discussion will focus in on how we humans are unnecessarily putting our emotional brains at risk and what can be done about it. An epidemic of diagnoses of Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, ADD, and ADHD highlights preventable functional imbalances as well as organic deterioration of the emotional brain - especially the amygdala and hippocampus.  Our modern lifestyle is making us sick. But that need not be - at least in such proportion. Each of us has more control over our emotional health and our brain structure than we may realize.

Co-sponsored with:  Department of Anesthesiology and the Center for Neural Basis of Cognition

Karen Shanor, Ph.D.  is a clinical and neuropsychologist in private practice in Washington, D.C.  She is a former White House consultant and serves on the advisory board for Discovery Channel Global Education. At Stanford she researched such topics as memory, sleep, and self-efficacy, and at NASA she focused on information systems and the brain. Dr. Shanor has taught at Georgetown University since 1998, and presented a number of lecture series at the Smithsonian Institution including: "The Brain and Consciousness," "The Dynamic Brain," "Theories of Personality," and "The Emotional Brain." Internationally she served as a Peace Corps science teacher in Somalia, a Peace Corps psychologist, and a consultant for a number of health projects worldwide.  She hosted a radio program on psychology for four years on NBC and appears regularly on national television.  Her latest books are The Emerging Mind and Bats Sing, Mice Giggle: The Surprising Science of Animals' Inner Lives.


:::Naturalism, Quietism, Evangelism
Kyle Stanford
Center Senior Visiting Fellow
University of California, Irvine

Tuesday, October 30, 2012
12:05 pm, 817R Cathedral of Learning

Abstract: :  This talk will be both extraordinarily ambitious and unambitious.  On the one hand, I aim to reshape the face of philosophy of science.  On the other, I will defend no controversial theses with arguments, at least no significant ones.  I aim to change the profession simply by holding up a mirror to help us see something about its evolution that I think most of us simply haven’t yet noticed and by suggesting what we should do about it next.


Revised 9/21/12 - Copyright 2012