Hume is on my mind especially in regard to my current work on Adam Smith. To this end, I’ve been re-watching Bryan Magee’s series The Great Philosophers from ’87. I’ve especially enjoyed the Hume discussion with John Passmore. Magee is an expositor second to none despite the fact that his expert guests are more intimate with- and have produced more distinguished work on- any of the target thinkers. In this Passmore interview (see below) one has the distinct sense that Magee is getting a great deal of pleasure by letting Passmore rattle on and then with utmost clarity and brevity restating the issue. This is not to put Passmore down – it is more to highlight Magee’s very special talent. I think Tony Quinton had that expository talent in writing but even he got flustered in his chat with Magee on Spinoza and Leibniz. Hume has a special place amongst my intellectual furniture. He speaks to me as the first modern: his discussion of personal identity, political philosophy, epistemology and ethics seem so germane to me as a so-called situated theorist. In any event, anyone who considers themselves a well-read person and who has not read Hume, is really quite impoverished, stylistically and substantively.
Moreover, what I particularly like about Hume is his even temperament and good nature along with his cutting wit. I’d have him by my side at my imaginary dinner party which wouldn’t be comprised by self-ascribed “intellectuals”: only people who love food, wine, conversation and laughter would be there.
He built a house in Edinburgh’s New Town, and spent his autumnal years quietly and comfortably, dining and conversing with friends, not all of whom were “studious and literary,” for Hume also found that his “company was not unacceptable to the young and careless.” One young person who found his company particularly “acceptable” was an attractive, vivacious, and highly intelligent woman in her twenties — Nancy Orde, the daughter of Chief Baron Orde of the Scottish Exchequer. One of Hume’s friends described her as “one of the most agreeable and accomplished women I ever knew.” Also noted for her impish sense of humor, she chalked “St. David’s Street” on the side of Hume’s house one night; the street still bears that name today. The two were close enough that she advised Hume in choosing wallpaper for his new home, and rumors that they were engaged even reached the ears of the salonnières in Paris. Just before his death, Hume added a codicil to his will, which included a gift to her of “ten Guineas to buy a Ring, as a Memorial of my Friendship and Attachment to so amiable and accomplished a Person.”
He also become the rage of the Parisian salons, enjoying the conversation and company of Diderot, D’Alembert, and d’Holbach, as well as the attentions and affections of the salonnières, especially the Comtesse de Boufflers. (“As I took a particular pleasure in the company of modest women, I had no reason to be displeased with the reception I met with from them.”)
From The Hume Society
With regard to politics and the character of princes and great men, I think I am very moderate. My views of things are more conformable to Whig principles; my representation of persons to Tory prejudices. Nothing can so much prove that men commonly regard more persons than things, as to find that I am commonly numbered among the Tories.
Cited in Ernest Mossner classic biography The Life of David Hume (Clarendon Press, 2001), p. 311.
Let’s give the final word to his dear friend:
Upon the whole, I have always considered him, both in his lifetime and since his death, as approaching as nearly to the idea of a perfectly wise and virtuous man, as perhaps the nature of human frailty will permit.
My chum Steve Turner has a new book out. It has much Oakeshott interest and as many will know Steve has been a longstanding Oakeshott commentator. For me, one of his key articles is “Tradition and Cognitive Science: Oakeshott’s Undoing of the Kantian Mind”, a piece that I reference quite regularly. OK, so the book is ridiculously expensive – just put in a request to your library. Here is an excerpt: Tacitness in Practice Theory Practices Then and Now.
With the Michael Oakeshott Association conference in a few days my thoughts turned to my late chum Ken Minogue. I haven’t had time to write up my recollections of Ken (but I will get to it). Anyway, I was pleased to notice Andrew Sullivan’s post marking the death of Ken:
I have a personal reason to be grateful to Minogue as well. Unlike almost everyone on the American right, he saw what I was trying to do in Virtually Normal and understood it, as I did, as an exercise in Oakeshottian restraint and Burkean adaptation to social change – rather than a revolutionary ideology. He reviewed it in National Review (no longer online) with the following words:
Andrew Sullivan has done for homosexuality what John Stuart Mill did for freedom: he has presented the whole range of social opinion about his subject with lucidity and fairness, and gone to work refuting most of it … Only those familiar with the deep wells of the history of political philosophy … will recognize the scale of his achievement.
Given all the abuse I’ve received from the hard right on gay equality, it was a tonic. It remains the review I’m proudest of – because it came from an Oakeshottian conservative of such learned good humor and intellectual rigor. It helped remind me that I was not betraying conservatism in writing that book, but doing my best to represent it in a new way for changing times. I was trying to integrate gays into their own society and families – with as little social disruption as possible.
I’m in full accord with Andrew but I would put it this way. What was being claimed in the name of human rights can be redescribed as an Oakeshottian “intimation” that was being ignored. I would also claim (using the current argot) that this is an instance of embedded/situated knowledge and cognition. Oakeshott made this very same point about univeral suffrage. As Ken himself wrote in “OAKESHOTT AND POLITICAL SCIENCE” Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 7: 227-246 ( June 2004):
[T]he answer Oakeshott suggests is that the actual political status of women coheres with the rest of life, and that it was not until the eighteenth century that changes were taking place in the social and legal position of women in Britain (and in other countries) that made their exclusion from a universal franchise look increasingly odd. This perceived incoherence in political arrangements “intimated” a reform. Oakeshott sometimes expresses the point by suggesting that politics is “the pursuit of intimations.”
As Paul and I reitterated in our intro to the Penn State Companion:
“It is not at all inconsistent,” Oakeshott wrote, “to be conservative in respect of government and radical in respect of almost every other activity.”
Review essay of A Companion to Michael Oakeshott
by Suvi Soininen
Redescriptions: yearbook of political thought, conceptual history and feminist theory. 2012/2013, vol. 16, pp. 172-187 (in downloadable pdf)
GETTIERIZED KNOBE EFFECTS James R. Beebe and Joseph Shea
A RELIABILISM BUILT ON COGNITIVE CONVERGENCE: AN EMPIRICALLY GROUNDED SOLUTION TO THE GENERALITY PROBLEM Martin L. Jönsson
A NEW PROSPECT FOR EPISTEMIC AGGREGATION Daniel Berntson and Yoaav Isaacs
PHOTOGRAPHICALLY BASED KNOWLEDGE Dan Cavedon-Taylor
EXPLANATIONIST EVIDENTIALISM Kevin McCain
IS FOUNDATIONAL A PRIORI JUSTIFICATION INDISPENSABLE? Ted Poston
LEARNING TO SIGNAL WITH PROBE AND ADJUST – CORRIGENDUM Brian Skyrms
Here is the intro and conclusion to Chris and my paper:
To know is to cognize, to cognize is to be a culturally bounded, rationality-bounded and environmentally located agent. Knowledge and cognition are thus dual aspects of human sociality. If social epistemology has the formation, acquisition, mediation, transmission and dissemination of knowledge in complex communities of knowers as its subject matter, then its third party character is essentially stigmergic. In its most generic formulation, stigmergy is the phenomenon of indirect communication mediated by modifications of the environment. Extending this notion one might conceive of stigmergy as the extra-cranial analog of artificial neural networks or the extended mind. With its emphasis on coordination, it acts as the binding agent for the epistemic and the cognitive. Coordination is, as David Kirsh (2006, p. 250) puts it, “the glue of distributed cognition”. This paper, therefore, recommends a stigmergic framework for social epistemology to account for the supposed tension between individual action, wants and beliefs and the social corpora: paradoxes associated with complexity and unintended consequences. A corollary to stigmergic epistemology is stigmergic cognition, again running on the idea that modifiable environmental considerations need to be factored into cognitive abilities. In this sense, we take the extended mind thesis to be essentially stigmergic in character.
This paper proceeds as follows. In Section 2, we set out the formal specifications of stigmergy. In Section 3, we illustrate the essentially stigmergic characteristics of social epistemology. In Section 4, we examine extended mind externalism as the preeminent species of stigmergic cognition. In Section 5 we illustrate how the particle swarm optimization (PSO) algorithm for the optimization of a function could be understood as a useful tool for different processes of social cognition, ranging from the learning of publicly available knowledge by an individual knower, to the evolution of scientific knowledge. In Section 6, we offer some concluding remarks.
A great deal of ground has been covered in the course of which we have made a case for two central claims:
1. Social epistemology has the formation, acquisition, mediation, transmission and dissemination of knowledge in complex communities of knowers as its subject matter. Such knowledge is, for the most part, third party and as such it is knowledge that is conditioned and modified. Understood thus, social epistemology is essentially stigmergic.
2. One might conceive of social connectionism as the extra-cranial analog of an artificial neural network providing epistemic structure. The extended mind thesis (at least the Clarkean variant) runs on the idea that modifiable environmental considerations need to be factored into cognitive abilities. This notion of cognition is thus essentially stigmergic.
With 1 and 2 in mind, two disclaimers are in order. First, a stigmergical socio-cognitive view of knowledge and mind should not be construed as (a) the claim that mental states are somewhere other than in the head or, (b) the corollary, that as individualists, we do not think that what is outside the head has nothing to do with what ends up in the head. A stigmergic approach, necessarily dual aspect, does not require one to dispense with one or the other. There is no methodological profit whatsoever to throwing out the Cartesian baby along with the bath water. Second, a socio-cognitive view of mind and knowledge be not be mistaken as a thesis for strong social constructivism, the idea all facts are socially constructed (a denial that reality in some way impinges upon mind) – again, it would be inconsistent with the environmental emphasis entailed by stigmergy.
For Clark, “[M]uch of what goes on in the complex world of humans, may thus, somewhat surprisingly, be understood in terms of so-called stigmergic algorithms.” (Clark, 1996, p. 279). Traditional cases of stigmergic systems include stock markets, economies, traffic patterns, supply logistics and resource allocation (Hadeli, Valckenaers, Kollingbaum, & Van Brussel, 2004), urban sprawl, and cultural memes. New forms of stigmergy have been exponentially expanded through the affordances of digital technology: we’ve expounded upon Google’s RP and Amazon’s CF but of course include wiki, open source software, weblogs, and a whole range of “social media” that comprise the World Wide Web. These particular examples serve to make the wider stigmergical point that the Janus-like aspect of knowledge and cognition must be set against a background fabric of cultural possibility: individuals draw their self-understanding from what is conceptually to hand in historically specific societies or civilizations, a preexisting complex web of linguistic, technological, social, political and institutional constraints.
It is no surprise then that it has been claimed that stigmergic systems are so ubiquitous a feature of human sociality, it would be more difficult to find institutions that are not stigmergic ( Parunak, 2005 and Tummolini and Castelfrananchi, 2007). If stigmergy were merely coextensive with “the use of external structures to control, prompt, and coordinate individual actions” (Clark, 1997, p. 186), then the concept would amount to a claim about situated cognition in all its dimensionality Solomon, 2006b. While stigmergy includes these aspects, it distinctively emphasizes the cybernetic loop of agent → environment → agent → enviro nment through an ongoing and mutual process of modification and conditioning, appearing to dissolve the supposed tension between the self-serving individual and the social corpora at large through indirect interaction. Though this process of behavior modification has long since been identified by both PSE and SSE theorists, only recently has there begun a concerted effort ( Turner, 2001 and Turner, 2003) to, as Ron Sun puts it (Sun, 2006) “cognitivize” human sociality. Social theory and cognitive science must now recognize the virtues of a “cognitivized” approach to all things social.
Here is the into to Kristina’s article.
In contemporary philosophy of science it has become a truism to claim that scientific knowledge is social knowledge. Yet there is a diversity of views about what is “social” in scientific inquiry and why it is of epistemic interest (Rolin, 2004). One approach to understanding the “social” in science focuses on scientists’ social values, that is, value judgments concerning a desirable social order. A number of philosophers argue that social values are of epistemic interest because they affect, for good and bad, scientists’ assessment of theories and hypotheses (e.g., Anderson, 1995, Anderson, 2004, Kincaid et al., 2007, Lacey, 1999, Longino, 1990, Longino, 1995 and Machamer and Wolters, 2004). Another approach to understanding the “social” in science focuses on social relations among scientists. Some philosophers argue that collaboration among scientists is of epistemic interest because it contributes to the epistemic success of science (e.g., Thagard, 1999, Wray, 2002 and Wray, 2006). Others argue that a division of research effort among scientists is of epistemic interest because it contributes to the epistemic success of science (e.g., Hull, 1988, Kitcher, 1993 and Solomon, 2001). Yet others focus on the epistemic role of trust and testimony in science (e.g., Hardwig, 1991, Kitcher, 1992 and Shapin, 1994). And some philosophers use the notion of distributed cognition to analyze how the social organization of science contributes to its epistemic success (e.g., Giere, 2006). The two approaches to understanding the “social” in science are not exclusive of each other. Some philosophers, most notably Longino, 1990 and Longino, 2002, discuss both social values in science and social relations among scientists.
Gilbert (2000) introduces yet another dimension to this debate. She claims that scientific knowledge is social knowledge in the sense that it includes collective beliefs held by scientific communities. By collective beliefs she means beliefs which cannot be accounted for in a summative way. According to a summative account, a community believes that p if and only if all or most of the members of the community believe that p (Gilbert, 2000, p. 39). For Gilbert such beliefs are not properly speaking collective beliefs because a community believing that p in a summative sense can be reduced to its members believing that p. Collective beliefs in the proper sense of the term cannot be reduced to the members of the community believing that p. As Gilbert explains, “scientific communities do have scientific beliefs of their own” (2000, p. 38).
According to Gilbert, collective beliefs are held by communities as plural subjects. To say that a community as a plural subject believes that p means that the members of the community are jointly committed to believe as a body that p (Gilbert, 2000, pp. 39–41). A joint commitment creates obligations and rights among the community members (Gilbert, 2000, p. 40). A scientist’s participation in a joint commitment of the type in question requires her not to deny that p without qualification (Gilbert, 2000, p. 44). In case she denies that p without qualification, the other members of the community are in the position to call her on it (Gilbert, 2000, p. 40). A plural subject account of collective belief differs from a summative account of beliefs held by communities in an important respect. In a plural subject account of collective belief it is neither a sufficient nor a necessary condition of a community believing that p that all or most of its members believe that p (Gilbert, 2000, p. 39). A community having a collective belief that p involves a consensus but, as Beatty explains, it is a “consensus at a different level”: not agreement concerning p but rather agreement to let p stand as the position of the group (Beatty, 2006, p. 53).
My aim is to explore to what extent scientific knowledge is properly understood as collective knowledge. By knowledge I mean justified true belief or acceptance (see also Wray, 2007). Thus, collective knowledge is justified true belief or acceptance held or arrived at by groups as plural subjects.1 In addressing the question to what extent scientific knowledge is collective knowledge, I focus on the part of the question inquiring to what extent scientific knowledge is held by groups of scientists as plural subjects and leave aside the part of the question inquiring to what extent scientific knowledge is true belief or acceptance. I assume that belief or acceptance has to be justified in some sense to deserve to be called scientific.
In Section 2, I discuss Gilbert (2000) view that scientific knowledge includes collective knowledge held by scientific communities. In Section 3, I discuss Wray (2007) argument for the claim that neither the scientific community as a whole nor the various communities that constitute particular sub-fields are capable of having collective knowledge. Wray (2007) argues contra Gilbert (2000) that merely research teams are capable of having collective knowledge. I argue contra Wray (2007) that collective knowledge is not limited to research teams. As Gilbert (2000) assumes, scientific communities are also capable of having collective knowledge. However, Gilbert’s account of collective knowledge in science is limited because it does not help us answer the question of why scientific communities have an interest in collective knowledge. In Section 4, I introduce a contextualist theory of epistemic justification in order to answer this question. In Section 5, I argue that scientific communities have an interest in collective knowledge because it enables them to establish a context of epistemic justification.