•  167
    Evolutionary Moral Realism
    Biological Theory 7 (3): 218-226. 2013.
    Evolutionary moral realism is the view that there are moral values with roots in evolution that are both specifically moral and exist independently of human belief systems. In beginning to sketch the outlines of such a view, we examine moral goods like fairness and empathetic caring as valuable and real aspects of the environments of species that are intelligent and social, or at least developing along an evolutionary trajectory that could lead to a level of intelligence that would enable indivi…Read more
  •  131
    Two Faces of Maxwell's Demon Reveal the Nature of Irreversibility
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 21 (2): 257. 1990.
    demon thought experiment remains ambiguous even today. One of the most delightful thought It seems that Maxwell originally invoked experiments in the history of physical science is..
  •  100
    We argue that living systems process information such that functionality emerges in them on a continuous basis. We then provide a framework that can explain and model the normativity of biological functionality. In addition we offer an explanation of the anticipatory nature of functionality within our overall approach. We adopt a Peircean approach to Biosemiotics, and a dynamical approach to Digital-Analog relations and to the interplay between different levels of functionality in autonomous sys…Read more
  •  96
    A system is autonomous if it uses its own information to modify itself and its environment to enhance its survival, responding to both environmental and internal stimuli to modify its basic functions to increase its viability. Autonomy is the foundation of functionality, intentionality and meaning. Autonomous systems accommodate the unexpected through self-organizing processes, together with some constraints that maintain autonomy. Early versions of autonomy, such as autopoiesis and closure to e…Read more
  •  91
    Evolutionary naturalism and the objectivity of morality
    Biology and Philosophy 8 (1): 47-60. 1993.
    We propose an objective and justifiable ethics that is contingent on the truth of evolutionary theory. We do not argue for the truth of this position, which depends on the empirical question of whether moral functions form a natural class, but for its cogency and possibility. The position we propose combines the advantages of Kantian objectivity with the explanatory and motivational advantages of moral naturalism. It avoids problems with the epistemological inaccessibility of transcendent values…Read more
  •  85
    Is there any virtue in modern science?
    Biology and Philosophy 15 (5): 773-784. 2000.
  •  84
    Complex systems are dynamic and may show high levels of variability in both space and time. It is often difficult to decide on what constitutes a given complex system, i.e., where system boundaries should be set, and what amounts to substantial change within the system. We discuss two central themes: the nature of system definitions and their ability to cope with change, and the importance of system definitions for the mental metamodels that we use to describe and order ideas about system change…Read more
  •  82
    Could I conceive being a brain in a vat?
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 68 (4). 1990.
    This Article does not have an abstract
  •  81
    Formal pragmatics plays an important, though secondary, role in modern analytical philosophy of language: its aim is to explain how context can affect the meaning of certain special kinds of utterances. During recent years, the adequacy of formal tools has come under attack, often leading to one or another form of relativism or antirealism.1 Our aim will be to extend the critique to formal pragmatics while showing that sceptical conclusions can be avoided by developing a different approach to th…Read more
  •  70
    Reduction, supervenience, and physical emergence
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 (5): 629-630. 2004.
    After distinguishing reductive explanability in principle from ontological deflation, I give a case of an obviously physical property that is reductively inexplicable in principle. I argue that biological systems often have this character, and that, if we make certain assumptions about the cohesion and dynamics of the mind and its physical substrate, then it is emergent according to Broad's criteria.
  •  70
    Entropy in evolution
    Biology and Philosophy 1 (1): 5-24. 1986.
    Daniel R. Brooks and E. O. Wiley have proposed a theory of evolution in which fitness is merely a rate determining factor. Evolution is driven by non-equilibrium processes which increase the entropy and information content of species together. Evolution can occur without environmental selection, since increased complexity and organization result from the likely capture at the species level of random variations produced at the chemical level. Speciation can occur as the result of variation within…Read more
  •  66
    Entropy and information in evolving biological systems
    with Daniel R. Brooks, Brian A. Maurer, Jonathan D. H. Smith, and E. O. Wiley
    Biology and Philosophy 4 (4): 407-432. 1989.
    Integrating concepts of maintenance and of origins is essential to explaining biological diversity. The unified theory of evolution attempts to find a common theme linking production rules inherent in biological systems, explaining the origin of biological order as a manifestation of the flow of energy and the flow of information on various spatial and temporal scales, with the recognition that natural selection is an evolutionarily relevant process. Biological systems persist in space and time …Read more
  •  66
    Biological Information
    with Werner Callebaut
    Biological Theory 1 (3): 221-223. 2006.
  •  63
    On the necessity of natural kinds
    In P. Riggs (ed.), Natural Kinds, Laws of Nature and Scientific Methodology, Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 1-10. 1996.
    Natural kinds are central to most might decide to restrict systematisation just to scientific reasoning about the world. For that..
  •  63
    Distributed Cognition is a hybrid approach to studying all aspects of cognition, from a cognitive, social and organisational perspective. The most well known level of analysis is to account for complex socially distributed cognitive activities, of which a diversity of technological artefacts and other tools and representations are an indispensable part.
  •  62
    Since the origins of the notion of emergence in attempts to recover the content of vitalistic anti-reductionism without its questionable metaphysics, emergence has been treated in terms of logical properties. This approach was doomed to failure, because logical properties are either sui generis or they are constructions from other logical properties. If the former, they do not explain on their own and are inevitably somewhat arbitrary (the problem with the related concept of supervenience, Colli…Read more
  •  58
    After the fall: Religious capacities and the error theory of morality
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 (6): 751-752. 2004.
    The target article proposes an error theory for religious belief. In contrast, moral beliefs are typically not counterintuitive, and some moral cognition and motivation is functional. Error theories for moral belief try to reduce morality to nonmoral psychological capacities because objective moral beliefs seem too fragile in a competitive environment. An error theory for religious belief makes this unnecessary.
  •  38
    How Not to Defend Metaphysical Realism
    Southwest Philosophy Review 3 19-27. 1986.
  •  36
    Informal pragmatics and linguistic creativity
    South African Journal of Philosophy 33 (2): 121-129. 2014.
    Examples of successful linguistic communication give rise to two important insights: it should be understood most fundamentally in terms of the pragmatic success of each individual utterance, and linguistic conventions need to be understood as on a par with the non-linguistic regularities that competent language users rely upon to refer. Syntax and semantics are part of what Barwise and Perry call the context of the utterance, contributing to the pragmatics of the utterance. This full and distri…Read more
  •  35
    Reasonable Partiality from a Biological Point of View
    Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 8 (1-2): 11-24. 2005.
    Speculation about the evolutionary origins of morality has yet to show how a biologically based capacity for morality might be connected to moral reasoning. Applying an evolutionary approach to three kinds of cases where partiality may or may not be morally reasonable, this paper explores a possible connection between a psychological capacity for morality and processes of wide reflective moral equilibrium. The central hypothesis is that while we might expect a capacity for morality to include as…Read more
  •  34
    Causation is the transfer of information
    In Howard Sankey (ed.), Causation and Laws of Nature, Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 215--245. 1999.
  •  33
    Goodman’s account of the ‘grue’ paradox stands at a crossroads in the history of twentieth century epistemology. Published in 1954, Fact, Fiction, and Forecast is a reaction to the logical empiricist views that held sway in the first half of the last century and anticipates many of the conventionalist and/or relativist moves popular throughout the second half. Through his evaluation of Hume’s problem of induction, as well as his own novel reformulation of it, Goodman comes to reject a number of …Read more
  •  33
    Intrinsic information
    In Philip P. Hanson (ed.), Information, Language and Cognition, University of British Columbia Press. pp. 1--390. 1990.
  •  28
    Pragmatic Incommensurability
    PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1984. 1984.
    Kuhn's incommensurability thesis has generally been interpreted by friends and foes alike so as to preclude direct rational communication across revolutionary divides in science. In this paper, a weaker form of incommensurability is sketched which allows eventual comparison of incommensurable theories, but is consistent with Kuhn's model of science. Incommensurability occurs whenever the knowledge or ability to translate from the language of one theory to that of another is lacking. It can be re…Read more
  •  28
    Published in: Johann Christian Marek, Maria Elisabeth Reicher (ed.) Contributions of the Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society XII (Austrian L. Wittgenstein Society, Kirchberg, 2004) pp. 373-375..
  •  23
    Explaining Biological Functionality: Is Control Theory Enough?
    South African Journal of Philosophy 30 (1): 53-62. 2011.
    It is generally agreed that organisms are Complex Adaptive Systems. Since the rise of Cybernetics in the middle of the last century ideas from information theory and control theory have been applied to the adaptations of biological organisms in order to explain how they work. This does not, however, explain functionality, which is widely but not universally attributed to biological systems. There are two approaches to functionality, one based on etiology (what a trait was selected for), and the …Read more
  •  23
    The Biology of Moral Systems
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 21 (2): 195-210. 1991.
  •  23
    Frequency-dependent causation: A defense of Giere
    Philosophy of Science 50 (4): 618-625. 1983.
    Ronald Giere's analysis of causal effectiveness in populations involves the comparison of two hypothetical populations, one in which every individual has the suspected causal factor, and the other in which none do. Elliott Sober has argued that in cases where causal effectiveness depends on relative population sizes, Giere's analysis breaks down. I take issue with this claim, and argue to the contrary that Giere's analysis can help provide insight into these cases