Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cognitio and Cognitio-Studies Journals in Pragmatism Now Available Online

Cassiano Terra Rodrigues tell us:

Our Center for Pragmatism Studies at PUC-SP, Brasil, publishes two journals with different aims and editorial projects. 

We had already all the content from Cognitio-Studies, focused on initial and developing research, available for free download. And from now on, all the numbers of Cognitio, which is the journal to publish more heavy stuff (let's say so, but we cherish them both equally), are available for free. We accept registrations for referees and the call for papers is constantly open. The most you have to do is to sign up and fill in a form, if so. 

We appreciate your help in spreading the word. 
To access the journals, follow the links:

** Articles are available in English, Spanish, and Portugese

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

CFP: Pragmatism and Religious Life Session at ACPA

From Charlie Hobbs, liason between the Society for the Advancement of American Pragmatism (SAAP) and American Catholic Philosophical Association (ACPA).

SAAP satellite session @ the November 1-3, 2013 meeting of the American Catholic Philosophical Association in Indianapolis.

*The theme of our session shall be “Pragmatism and the Religious Life” (broadly construed). Proposals of 200-500 words can be sent to Charlie Hobbs at

Sunday, February 24, 2013

American Philosophy as De-Militarized Zone

When I explain the difference between analytic and continental philosophy to my students, I give them two points of distinction. The first is geographic and historical. The second, and more interesting, is that continental philosophy absorbed the nascent human sciences in their mutual childhood, while analytic philosophy launched through the breakthroughs of modern logic and ingested the ways of physical science. I do not, as some claim, tell my students that the distinction is between anti-realism and naturalism, or literature and science, or figures & texts and topics and evidence.

I once claimed that the distinction was “sociological” over at New Apps, and many piled-on thinking that I meant that it was “arbitrary” or “merely descriptive but not normative” such that we should collapse the distinction, but that is not what I meant. Reading “sociological” in that way indicates a commonly analytic frame of mind, whereas the continental frame would not separate the contingent ways of human knowing from the scientific attempt at universal truth.  These differing mentalities, fostered by a difference in tradition, are not reducible, and I find the contingency of either not to be a diminishment.

Though I began the study of philosophy within analytic circles, I branched into continental, encountered East Asian, and then specialized in history of continental and American philosophy. As an Americanist—mostly a pragmatist—I find myself to be left out of the analytic vs. continental debates while at the same time being expected to conform to the traditional expectations of each. No, analytic is not “American” insomuch as it is not part of that historic tradition but another.

I feel kind of like Korea—being between both China and Japan—and have militarized against squabbles that I would rather have no part in, but everyone wants me to be on their side, while constantly commenting about how defensive Korea (or pragmatism) is. Put this way, I hope that more interlocutors understand why pragmatism seems a bit defensive. I mean, when was the last time you engaged in a continental vs. analytic conversation and stopped to comment upon American philosophy?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hermeneutic Charity and the Reductio ad Absurdum

What does hermeneutic charity look like in practice?

Thinking back to my prior post about a pile-on I received on another blog--they didn't mean anything by it but we rarely do when we make these mistakes--I would like to make a concrete suggestion about an argumentative strategy that commonly violates hermeneutic charity. I am revisiting it because one of my students did it to another, and the object of the lack of charity called the person on it.

When you use a reductio ad absurdum (reduction to absurdity), e.g., "your argument leads to all these bad things and therefore you are wrong," be very, very careful about how you phrase it. I could follow this advice more often myself! This reductio implies that your interlocutor implicitly or explicitly believes many "bad things," and it is easy to horrify the person with all the "bad things" you are accusing them of believing. Yes, you could say that it is "not personal" and merely "formal," but that is a total cop-out because it ignores how the other person feels about being accused of such things, plus it presumes that the other person was either not intelligent or thoughtful enough to know that those implications were possible.

Rather than fire-off the accusations at once--and yes this reductio often feels like an accusation--I would recommend asking what the person has to say to the implications you would draw. This is the method I try to employ, though I admit that frequently an interlocutor will dismiss my proffered implications as not worthy of discussion. Then, I become more adamant that they need redress, though to be honest I should probably drop the subject at that point, when in fact I rarely do, since the person is not treating the conversation as a true dialog. This is more common in online conversation, but I have also frequently seen it at conferences where a person aggressively defends a position by dismissing the counter-arguments as "not relevant" but offers few reasons beyond those words.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

New Book: Beyond Mechanism

Book Description:

It has been said that new discoveries and developments in the human, social, and natural sciences hang “in the air” (Bowler, 1983; 2008) prior to their consummation. While neo-Darwinist biology has been powerfully served by its mechanistic metaphysic and a reductionist methodology in which living organisms are considered machines, many of the chapters in this volume place this paradigm into question. Pairing scientists and philosophers together, this volume explores what might be termed “the New Frontiers” of biology, namely contemporary areas of research that appear to call an updating, a supplementation, or a relaxation of some of the main tenets of the Modern Synthesis. Such areas of investigation include: Emergence Theory, Systems Biology, Biosemiotics, Homeostasis, Symbiogenesis, Niche Construction, the Theory of Organic Selection (also known as “the Baldwin Effect”), Self-Organization and Teleodynamics, as well as Epigenetics. Most of the chapters in this book offer critical reflections on the neo-Darwinist outlook and work to promote a novel synthesis that is open to a greater degree of inclusivity as well as to a more holistic orientation in the biological sciences.

Foreword: Evolution beyond Newton, Darwin, and Entailing 

Law 1 
Stuart A. Kauffman 

Introduction: On a “Life-Blind Spot” in Neo-Darwinism’s  Mechanistic Metaphysical Lens 25 
Adam C. Scarfe 

Section 1: Complexity, Systems Theory, and Emergence 

1 Complex Systems Dynamics in Evolution and Emergent  Processes 67 
Bruce H. Weber 

2 Why Emergence Matters 75 
Philip Clayton 

3 On the Incompatibility of the Neo-Darwinian Hypothesis  With Systems-Theoretical Explanations of Biological  Development 93 
Gernot Falkner and Renate Falkner 

4 Process-First Ontology 115 
Robert E. Ulanowicz 

5 Ordinal Pluralism as Metaphysics for Biology 133 
Lawrence Cahoone 

Section 2: Biosemiotics 

6 Why Do We Need a Semiotic Understanding of Life? 147 
Jesper Hoffmeyer 

7 The Irreducibility of Life to Mentality: Biosemiotics or 
Emergence? 169 
Lawrence Cahoone 

Section 3: Homeostasis, Thermodynamics, and Symbiogenesis 

8 Biology’s Second Law: Homeostasis, Purpose and Desire 183 
J. Scott Turner 

9 “Wind at Life’s Back”—Toward a Naturalistic, Whiteheadian Teleology: Symbiogenesis and the Second Law 205 
Dorion Sagan and Lynn Margulis 

10 Of Termites and Men: On the Ontology of Collective Individuals 233 
Brian G. Henning 

Section 4: The Baldwin Effect, Behavior, and Evolution 

11 The Baldwin Effect in an Extended Evolutionary Synthesis 251 
Bruce H. Weber 

12 On the Ramifications of the Theory of Organic Selection for Environmental and Evolutionary Ethics 259 
Adam C. Scarfe 

Section 5: Autogenesis, Teleology, and Teleodynamics 

13 Teleology versus Mechanism in Biology: Beyond  Self-Organization 287 
Terrence Deacon and Tyrone Cashman 

14 Teleodynamics: A Neo-Naturalistic Conception of  Organismic Teleology 309 
Spyridon Koutroufinis 

Section 6: Epigenetics 

15 Epigenesis, Epigenetics, and the Epigenotype: Toward An Inclusive Concept of Development and Evolution 345 
Brian K. Hall 

16 Epigenetics, Soft Inheritance, Mechanistic Metaphysics, and Bioethics 369 
Adam C. Scarfe 

Section 7: Organism and Mechanism 

17 From Organicism to Mechanism—and Halfway Back? 409 
Michael Ruse 

18 Machines and Organisms: The Rise and Fall of a Conflict 431 
Philip Clayton

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

REVISED CFP: Charles S. Peirce International Congress Revised

- Two new submission categories: short contributions and posters (deadline: September 1)
- New deadline for panel proposals: April 1
- Individuals may submit for review at most two full-length (25 min., 3000-word) papers; at most one panel proposal; at most one short contribution; and at most one poster.

Monday, February 11, 2013

REBLOG: individuated possibles and the impossibility of eternal objects

Leon discusses individuation, another popular topic here, but goes far into contemporary continental, where I cannot follow. One thing that I like about his recent posts is that he's displaying a mirroring of ideas in Americanist and Continental thought. Also, he's venturing into religious naturalism, and I'd like to hear more about the religious accounts of genesis. Finally, I think he's right that any "powers ontology" must talk about the creative ground of real possibility, which comes back to the "God question" that has elicited so much controversy in the local blogosphere.

Personally, I am always very surprised at the militancy of some atheists, especially when they focus on the "freedom from religion" at the expense of the development of human persons.

Contingency as Creative Positive Addition

Here, Leon of After Nature discusses a topic that I have mused upon often and recently. I particularly like his phrase "creative positive addition," although I'll chastise him for "addition." Contingency only becomes realized as an "addition," a concreteness, but contingency has more depth than that. If we distinguish the ontological, the ontic, and the event of becoming (ereignis?), then logical space of reality  (ontological) is distinct from what is (ontic), and the becoming what is given the current cosmic epoch. Contingency in the first case does not appear to be addition, and the it has a notably different sense in the second and third. He may reject the specifics of my characterization, but I do hope to get him thinking on when and how contingency is or is not "addition." 

Pragmatism Today issue on Somaesthetics

Saturday, February 9, 2013

CFP: Royce Conference 2013

Royce, California, and the World: 
A Conference Sponsored by the Josiah Royce Society and Empirical Magazine

Please direct all replies or questions to:

Royce, California, and the World, a meeting of scholars and communities, will be held August 16-18, 2013, in Royce’s historic birthplace and hometown, Grass Valley, California, in the beautiful Sierra Foothills. The meeting will be held at the Holbrooke Hotel, an important California landmark.

In recent years the work of Josiah Royce has drawn increased attention from scholars and thinkers all over the world. Since its formation in 2003, the Josiah Royce Society has promoted scholarly activities related to Royce’s ideas in a far-ranging series of national and international conferences. In 2013 the Royce Society brings Royce home to his roots and celebrates the 100th anniversary of Royce’s masterwork, The Problem of Christianity. Scholarly papers in any discipline on Royce, applications of Roycean philosophy, and creative extensions of Royce's thought are welcome. Especially sought for this conference are papers on The Problem of Christianity and on Royce’s history of and in California.

* John J. McDermott, Texas A&M University Distinguished Professor of Philosophy
* Kevin Starr, University of Southern California: University Professor of History & California State Librarian, Emeritus

The proceedings will include a reading of a new original play about Royce’s life in California, “Beyond Our Mountains,” by Robin A. Wallace.

Submissions are due by June 1, 2013. Notification of acceptance will be made by June 15th.

FORMAT: Submissions should be in MSWord format (do not send pdf files; organizers must code documents for refereeing and pdfs are not suitable).

LENGTH: 2000 to 3000 words; 20-35 minutes reading time.

INFORMATION: Papers should be prepared for blind review and submitted as an e-mail attachment to The author's name, institution, e-mail address, eligibility for the Costello Prize (see below), and word count should be indicated only in the body of the e-mail.

PRIZE: The Harry Todd Costello Prize for the best graduate student or recent Ph.D. paper on Royce, as selected by the Program Committee. Those who are currently graduate students or whose Ph.D. was awarded after August 31, 2008 are eligible for the Costello Prize. Papers will be judged on scholarship, clarity of presentation, excellence of argument, scholarship, and the contribution made to the on-going development of Royce's ideas and Roycean thought.

Program Co-Chairs: Randall E. Auxier, Southern Illinois Univ., Carbondale; Scott L. Pratt, Univ. of Oregon
Grass Valley Organizing Committee: Robin A. Wallace, Iven Lourie, Olav Bryant Smith, Jackie Kegley
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