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Indiana University Bloomington

Colloquium Series

Spring 2009 Colloquium Series

All talks are on Friday from 4:00 to 6:00 PM in Ballantine Hall 003, unless otherwise noted.

Calendar [click date for details]

Jan 16   Richard Nash   Byerley’s Charger and Somerville’s “Chase”: Agential Realism and more Worldly Cultural Histories    01 : 30 PM   to   03 : 30 PM
Jan 30   Valia Allori    On Wave Function Monism in Spontaneous Collapse Theories
Feb 06   Carl Craver    A Field-Guide to Levels
Feb 20   Lynn Nyhart    Natural history as an evolving social system in Germany and the United States, 1880-1925.
Mar 06   Anita Guerrini    Who is the Anatomist in the Seventeenth Century?     WESTFALL LECTURE
Mar 11   Peter Anstey    Early Modern Philosophy of Experiment
Mar 27    Hannah Landecker    From Messengers and Bodies to Signals and Cells
Apr 17    Osvaldo Pessoa Jr.    Causal Models in the History of Science    01 : 30 PM   to   03 : 30 PM
May 01    Matthew Dunn    Making Sense of Causal Drift Explanations     Hanson Lecture    01 : 30 PM   to   03 : 30 PM
May 08    Albert Newen    Self-Consciousness, Agency and Ownership. An investigation from the perspectives of philosophy and cognitive sciences    02 : 00 PM   to   04 : 00 PM     Location: BH005

Jan 16   01: 30 PM   to   03 : 30 PM

Richard Nash

Indiana University

Title: Byerley’s Charger and Somerville’s “Chase”: Agential Realism and more Worldly Cultural Histories

Abstract: I would like to use the occasion of this HPSC Colloquium to think along the sutured seam that currently holds together my perhaps overly ambitious research project. Whether I am, in fact, thinking through two projects or one is very much an open question for me at the moment. My title alludes to two obscure avatars of that project: Byerley’s Charger is the horse that Robert Byerley rode at the Battle of the Boyne, a horse who is widely identified as the earliest imported “foundation sire” of the thoroughbred racehorse; Somerville’s “Chase” is a poem (a very good poem) about hunting that was remarkably popular in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century before retreating into obscurity. In my shorthand referencing, Byerley’s Charger represents my interest in telling a dramatically revisionist account of the history of the thoroughbred racehorse (most recently retold in the historical novel of Jeremy James) and the construction of our modern notion of “breed,” an account that challenges many important details in the received history and locates the origin of that sport in a particular history of political change during which human and animal kinship networks interacted in complex and important ways. My interest in William Somerville’s “The Chase” performs a somewhat different project of revisionist history, recovering a poem from obscurity, and exploring how that poem is located within a particular “recreational” context, both literary and cultural, that valued a fundamentally different articulation of human/non-human animal relations than the humanist paradigm that did so much to remove humans from the animal world. Jointly, these two revisionist historical projects point to models of rethinking human agency in the world along paths suggested in the writings of Jakob Von Uexkull, Donna Haraway, and Karen Barad.

Jan 30

Valia Allori

Northern Illinois University

Title: On Wave Function Monism in Spontaneous Collapse Theories

Abstract: Can a quantum theory with only the wave function (evolving according to whatever equation) be a satisfactory fundamental physical theory? Bell’s famous alternatives to solve the measurement problem – either the wave function is not everything or the Schroedinger’s equation is not right – might suggest the possibility, as the result of one of the alternatives, of wave function monism. I argue that wave function monism is not a desirable ontological choice. Even if we change the evolution of the wave function from Schroedinger’s equation to a different one, it would still be the case that a satisfactory quantum theory cannot be with the wave function only. Instead, a preferable choice is that of a quantum theory in which physical objects are represented by an entity in three–dimensional space or in space-time.

Feb 06

Carl Craver

Washington University St. Louis

Title: A Field-Guide to Levels

Abstract: Few terms are more abused than "level." There are levels of abstraction, being, complexity, description, explanation, generality, regularity, organization, size, and theory. There are Marr's levels, Dennett's levels, Lycan's homuncular levels, and Oppenheim and Putnam's hierarchical levels. To make matters worse, the personal/subpersonal distinction, the role/occupant distinction, and the function/mechanism distinction are all frequently described using the levels metaphor. But the levels metaphor is undemanding, requiring only a set of relata and a means of ranking them as higher and lower than one another. I distinguishing several senses of level common in neuroscience, and I identify one sense, levels of mechanisms, as especially important for thinking about the explanations and theories of contemporary neuroscience. I then show how confusion about interlevel relations sometimes results from failing to distinguish levels of mechanisms from levels of realization, on the one hand, and from personal and sub-personal levels on the other.

Feb 20

Lynn Nyhart

University of Wisconsin

Title: Natural history as an evolving social system in Germany and the United States, 1880-1925.

Abstract: In late nineteenth-century Germany, a "biological" approach to natural history emerged that would provide the foundation for the new science of animal ecology in the early twentieth century. Infusing the study of nature with attention to relationships among organisms and between organisms and their environments, this approach was especially prominent outside of the university system, evidenced especially among zoo and museum reformers, taxidermists, schoolteachers, and an emerging cohort of professional animal ecologists. In this paper, I compare this situation with the United States to assess what characteristics of this movement were uniquely German and what were more broadly "modern." In doing so, I hope to address the more general question of how we rise above the unique, situated story to make broader claims about the history of science.


Anita Guerrini

Oregon State

Title: Who is the Anatomist in the Seventeenth Century?

Abstract: Dissection was possibly the most performed scientific activity in the seventeenth century. Human corpses and live and dead animals were regularly dissected all over Europe, in public and in private. Who did the work of anatomy, where did they learn it, and where was it done? Focusing on France, this paper will examine the multifarious performers and places of anatomy. In particular, I will assert the central role played by animals in this work, and the central role they played in early modern natural philosophy.

Mar 11

Peter Anstey

University of Otago, New Zealand

Title: Early Modern Philosophy of Experiment

Abstract: This paper provides an exposition of the philosophy of experiment developed by Francis Bacon, Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke. The Bacon-Boyle-Hooke view of experiment is then used to shed light on the way in which many early modern natural philosophers conceived of the relation between experiment and theory. This, in turn, provides the basis of a critique of some recent accounts of both the rise of experiment in the early modern period and its relevance to the ‘new experimentalism’ of the late twentieth century.

Mar 27

Hannah Landecker


Title: From Messengers and Bodies to Signals and Cells

Abstract: In the 1960s, the concept of hormones as messengers that traveled from one organ to another in the body and acted on enzymes to cause physiological changes was gradually replaced by hormones as signals that traveled from one cell to another, and acted via the cellular mechanisms of receptors and gene transcription to cause a cascade of molecular events. In particular, metabolic effects of hormones in the liver were a site of intensive work and debate about the mechanism of hormonal translation of environmental cues into bodily responses. This story of the mechanism of hormone action is offered as an example of a larger history of the organism and its milieu in twentieth century biology

Apr 17    01 : 30 PM   to   03: 30 PM

Osvaldo Pessoa Jr.

Dept. Philosophy, University of Sao Paulo; visiting at HPS-IU

Title: Causal Models in the History of Science

Abstract: We present a theory of science based on general units of knowledge, called “advances” (cognitive memes, such as ideas, problems, data, laws, instruments, etc.), that are passed on from scientist to scientist, and may be seen as “causing” (in a counterfactual and probabilistic sense) the appearance of other advances.

Historical information has been basically derived from secondary literature, and the resulting causal networks are encoded in computer language (Scheme!), so as to run simulations (in the near future). As a case study, we examine the fields of spectroscopy and thermal radiation in the period 1800-60, focusing especially on independent discoveries.

The present stage of the project involves attributing varying “causal strengths” to a single advance, which reflects the probability that it may influence the appearance of new advances (context of discovery) or that it may vary the causal strengths of other advances (context of justification). The causal strength of an idea reflects its degree of acceptance, while that of an instrument reflects its performance (figures of merit).

Our general philosophical discussion will focus on the viability of doing counterfactual history of science, in contrast to the more favorable situation in economic history, and to the case of “rerunning the tape” of biological evolution. A possible world is defined in a causal sense (not in the logical sense) as a future possibility at some instant of the past. Different conceptions of scientific progress may be didactically represented by means of tree diagrams of possible histories.

May 01    01 : 30 PM   to   03 : 30 PM     Hanson Lecture

Matthew Dunn

Indiana University

Title: Making Sense of Causal Drift Explanations

Abstract: 'Genetic drift' is a theoretical term deployed in theoretical explanations of some biological phenomena. In this paper I discuss a set of semantic issues that must be addressed in order to make sense of the way the term 'drift' is deployed in causal explanations. If there are no explicit accounts of how causal drift explanations work, then it is unclear if they are possible as given in scientific textbooks and journal articles. I develop a view of theoretical explanation in evolutionary biology that relies on the model-theoretic view of theories and involves the labeling of models. I develop three constraints on labeling models with the term 'drift' and show how these constraints arise from both empirical and conceptual concerns. I examine one of the most promising causal accounts of drift, that due to Millstein (2002), and show how it fails to satisfy an empirical constraint.

May 08    02 : 00 PM   to   04 : 00 PM     Location: BH005

Albert Newen

University of Tubingen

Title: Self-Consciousness, Agency and Ownership. An investigation from the perspectives of philosophy and cognitive sciences

Abstract: The structure of the acting self is still perplexing and remains an often confounded issue in the recent debates. This talk provides a new systematic theory of self-consciousness in general and of two of its main features, the sense of agency and the sense of ownership.

Furthermore, the phenomenon of responsibility can be separated from both phenomena. The theoretical framework will be shown to be fruitful in the context of the recent experiments in neuroscience including own studies worked out in cooperation with Kai Vogeley.

An important background of the new approach is a theory of levels of mental representation. It will be argued that we have to distinguish at least nonconceptual representations, conceptual representations and meta-representations. On the basis of clearly defined levels of representation it will be argued that one has to differentiate (i) an individual-orientated cognitive dimension of agency and ownership from (ii) a socio-normative dimension of responsibility.

Gallagher introduced the distinction between agency and ownership. We need this distinction to account for passive movement of my arm since I still have the feeling of ownership in such a case but no feeling of agency. Furthermore, it is shown that we have to distinguish the feeling of agency and the judgment of agency. I can develop a feeling of agency in everyday automatic doings without explicitly judging that I am the agent. The feeling of agency is realized by nonconceptual representations. I may also develop a judgment of agency without any feeling of agency: The judgment of agency is realized by conceptual representations. Furthermore, it is shown that responsibility is a separate dimension from both aspects. I can judge that I am the agent of an action but deny responsibility by arguing that I just followed a strict order. This indicates that the ascription of responsibility is presupposes a theory of social interaction. Responsibility is relying on meta-representations which are typically involved in the so-called theory-of-mind ability. Analogous distinctions have to be made concerning the phenomenon of ownership. The proposed theory of self-consciousness is shown to be very fruitful from the perspectives of psychology, psychiatry and neuroscience.