Archive for ‘Entries and Papers in English’

08/06/2010

The application of Lyapunov exponents to the prediction of time series

Monika Miśkiewicz
Prace naukowe Akademii Ekonomicznej we Wrocławiu Nr 1189 / 2007
Summary (according to author)
“The paper presents the new method of chaotic series prediction. This method is based on a basic characteristic of chaotic systems which is sensitive dependence upon initial conditions (SDUIC). This figures refers to as Lyapunov exponents are a measure of the SDUIC. They measure the rate of the divergence of trajectories in state space. The method involves, first the reconstruction of the phase space using a time series and then the prediction of unknown phase space point making use of Lyapunov exponents as a qualitative parameter. As a result of the transformation of this phase space point the predicted time series data can be obtained. Numerical examples have proved that the method is effective.”
Commentary.
Studying the numerical examples it is hard to agree that the method is really effective. Without even understanding the mathematical equations behind the method it is visible how few numbers are predicted with a tolerable deviation. It would be surprising if it were to the contrary, so that the prediction were accurate. Then we would have an effective method of predicting the currency rates. Unfortunately we haven’t worked out such a method yet.
It is not easy to judge the applied method without referring to detailed mathematical and strictly formal description. It also requires very comprehensive knowledge on Lyapunov exponents and various trials of its application. It looks that author possess such a knowledge and can use it with impressive skill. It looks however that the problems lies in the assumptions. Lyapunov exponents can be applied to chaotic systems which are deterministic. In other words, there are equations which describes the movements of elements within the phase space, even if we don’t know them yet. This is a big advantage of this method of instability measuring comparing to e.g. metric entropy of Kolmogorov. Simply studying the series of data we can firstly find an attractor (assuming that one exists) and then estimate the Lyapunov exponent and predict the subsequent series. However if there is no equation behind the series of data, and if there is no attractor the results of predictions will be highly accidental.

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14/05/2010

Short review: Łupkowski Paweł, Dlaczego funkcjonalizm H. Putnama nie musi pytać o ontologiczny status stanó1) mentalnych (Why H. Putnam functionalism does not have to ask for ontological status of mental states?)

Text:
Łupkowski Paweł, Dlaczego funkcjonalizm H. Putnama nie musi pytać o ontologiczny status stanó1) mentalnych (Why H. Putnam functionalism does not have to ask for ontological status of mental states?)

Abstract:
The article is a very short presentation of Putnam’s functionalism and its role for strong AI supporters.
At the beginning the authors presents shortly main assumptions of the Putnam’s functionalism which has been presented in a book “Mind and Machines”. The main Putnam’s theory assumption is identification of mental states with functional states, which can not be reduced to physical states of an organism.
Functionalism is a very attractive support for a strong version of Artificial Intelligence, which can be characterized as belief that thinking consists on computations, in particular consciousness results by appropriate computational process.
In the end the authors rises also some well known two counterarguments against the Putnam’s functionalism and strong AI position: reversed spectrum argument and Searle’s Chineese room argument.

Comment:
The author indicates one of the most influential scientific approach to the nature of the human being. He indicates the philosophical background as well as strong AI position itself. The article is short and superficial, however it’s journalist character might be an advantage too.

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14/05/2010

Short review: Zawidzki, T., Bechtel, W. (2005), ,,Gall’s Legacy Revisited: Decomposition and Localization in Cognitive Neuroscience”, [in:] Erneling, Ch., Johnson, D. (eds.) The Mind as a Scientific Object, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 293-316.

I. Summary:
(1) Theses:
a) The account of explanation offered in life sciences (especially in cognitive neuroscience) takes the form of specification of mechanisms, wherein an overall activity of a system is decomposed into subfunctions, and these are then localized to components of the system.
b) There is a neo-Gallean theme in cognitive neuroscience, where information gained from neural studies often leads to fundamental revisions in functional decompositions of cognitive performance.
(2) Overview:
Two of the Gall’s assumptions about the relation between the mind and the brain are present in cognitive neuroscience. The first states that different mental processes are localized in different parts of the brain. The second states that we can decompose each mental process into faculties, each solely responsible for a mental trait. Both of these assumptions are related with the main idea of Gall’s program, an idea that specific brain regions are responsible for specific psychological capacities. However, for Gall (and some contemporary modularists like Fodor) the decomposition of mind into faculties or modules comes prior to linking those faculties with physical parts of the brain. It is a top-down approach to localization, where modules are identified independently of their brain realization. A somewhat more interesting strategy of decomposition of mental processes into modules and their localization in the brain takes the form of an interplay between functional decomposition and neuroanatomical and neurophysiological evidence.
This strategy is illustrated by a case study of decomposition and localization of attentional mechanisms. Three models of attention are presented. The first is Broadbent’s (1958) ,,bottleneck’’ model. According to this model, there is a limited cognitive resource, the ,,bottleneck”, that stimulus information competes for. However, neural information lead to a reconceptualization of attention. The second model, Posner’s (1992) ,,spotlight” model, is informed by this neural evidence. Posner experimented with subjects with brain lesions using PET. It occured that victims of lesions with attentional deficits still have the capacity to process information from every sensory modality, as well as semantic information. They could not, however, enhance this processing to the requisite degree when it is required for the purposes of some task. Posner proposed that there is a system enhancing processing in primary sensory areas (hence the ,,spotlight” metaphor), which can be disabled with respect to one of these areas. However, further neural evidence lead to another reconceptualization of attention. Posner divided attention into a posterior system driven by visual stimuli and anterior system driven by task-specific information. In a PET study, Corbetta et al.(1991) examined the neural activation that accompanies performance on a visual search task involving two frames representing an array of moving objects. The subjects were asked to report if the two frames were the same or different with respect to color, shape etc. The experiment suggested that for divided-attention and selective-attention conditions, non-modality specific, linguistic instructions play a role in the control of attention. Therefore, according to the third model of attention, proposed by Desimone and Duncan (1995) and informed by new neural evidence, attentional selection involves biased competition among different processing streams for the control of behavioral response.
II. Comments:
1) The case study of decomposition and localization of attention mechanism supports thesis (b). Different decompositions and localizations of this mechanism were heavily influenced by evidence from neuroanatomy and neurophysiology. This lead to reconceptualizations of attention in psychology. Furthermore, these reconceptualizations would not be possible without the support from neuroscience. The above mentioned evolution of our understanding of attention shows the advantage of the strategy of decomposition that is in interplay with neuroscientific evidence over the strategy of decomposition that breaks down different mental processes before linking them with specific parts of the brain.
2) The idea of decomposition of mental processes supports thesis (a). Cognitive scientists try to brake down complex, intentional mental processes (such as language understanding) into processes which can be described as mechanistic (such as attention). This idea is very similar to Gall’s project od decomposition of mental functions into faculties.
3) However, it is not clear whether complex, intentional mental functions can be explained solely with specifications of different mechanisms, or modules. Mechanisms or modules can be responsible only for very simple mental activity because they process only one kind of information. By using different kinds of information from different sources, complex mental functions seem to be qualitatively different from simple mechanisms, or modules.

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10/05/2010

Neuroscience & Euthanasia draft essay

here is my contribution to this weeks seminar – it is a working paper in the handbook/introduction mode and my suggestion for a series: to cover a specific issue each and show what neuroscience/science can bring to philosophical & legal issues. You can download the paper here

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30/04/2010

Short Review: Araszkiewicz, The slippery slope arguments against the legalization of physician-assisted suicide

Michał Araszkiewicz
The slippery slope arguments against the legalization of physician-assisted suicide forthcoming in Studies in the Philosophy of Law IV
Theses
 Outlines and examines the various formulations of the slippery slope argument against PAS in considerable detail and within clarity and rigour. Makes a distinction between PAS and euthanasia and withdrawing life support which is perhaps too limiting and, arguably, less sharp.
 Formulates three kinds of Slippery Slope Argument (SSA):
 (LSSA 1) If we allow A, we will be logically forced to allow B, due to the lack of significant difference between them,
 (LSSA 2) If we allow A, we will be logically forced to allow B, due to the sorites structure of the reasoning,
 (ESSA ) If we allow A, B will (ultimately) take place due to the empirical processes.
 Then examines them all against two options available in the Polish context- creating a subjective right to die and a less extreme decriminalisation of helping someone to die.
 Admits the weakness of some of his formulations and concludes with a call for further research on the problem.

Commentary
 Despite the scholarly approach and detailed examination, the paper perhaps falls victim to something which Araszkiewicz himself terms “SSAs play an important role in political and ethical debate and must not be easily dismissed as logical fallacies”. This is actually far from clear: in the case of LSSA 1, there is a clear difference between helping someone to die of their own volition and killing people who wish to live; in the LSS2, this seems to be exactly the sort of logical fallacy that he claims that they are not; ESSA is perhaps the most enigmatic of them all and from far convincing in my opinion.
 SSA’s are actually the last resort (or sometimes the first port of call) for extremists who wish to avoid a concrete discussion and rather focus on hypothetical and imagined consequences of a very different act – a contemporary case in point being the Republican senator in the US who used such reasoning to claim that Obama’s health care reform will lead to gulags since it is the “slippery slope to socialism”.

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09/04/2010

What Is Mind and How It Exists?

Marcin Miłkowski, Robert Poczobut

Diametros 3/ 2005

Abstract

The paper is a brief but comprehensive review of current philosophical ideas of the nature and existence of mind. It begins with quite obvious observation on various sources of our knowledge on mind’s functions and processes: common, philosophical and scientific. Each approach has its own value and cannot be dismissed. However the scientific knowledge should be the main context within which philosophy of mind should be practiced. The natural consequence of that (according to the authors) is, that at present no one takes the ideas like substantial dualism, epiphenomenalism or psychophysical parallelism seriously. Following those assumptions the conception of mind is further unfolded. However the reader will not find the simple answer on questions in title. Instead some criteria and mid-conceptions are proposed: what states of mind can be observed, what kind of minds can be distinguished, and what kind of mind’s models are being proposed at present in cognitive sciences and in philosophy. In the next part, on the existence of mind, the inter-levels relations are analyzed in terms of upward and downward causation. The mind is envisaged as a complex structuralized system which constitutes the basis for the realization of complex mind’s functions. At the end the idea of emergence monism is supported with some specification.

Commentary

The paper was meant to be an introduction to the discussion on the mind’s nature and existence. Both authors present very wide and comprehensive knowledge on the topic. The assumed objective has been fulfilled. It is in fact a good introduction. It must be noticed however, that the ideas which are not consistent with authors views are very easily dismissed and the reader, which presents opposite point of view can be disappointed, not finding any arguments for that.

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09/04/2010

The Influence of Chaos Theory on Some Ontological Ideas and on Dispute about Reductionism

Maciej Waszczyk

Zeszyty Naukowe Politechniki Gdańskiej Nr. 589, Filozofia VI / 2002

Abstract

In the first part of the paper author presents the main assumptions and conclusions on chaos theory. He begins with the short introduction explaining the main problems of the classical approach to the dynamical processes. Then we can learn about Lorenz discoveries while the climate phenomena has been analyzed by him, or more precisely about his set of equations, which, most probably was the first example of the non-linear, weakly stable equations. The main notions of chaos theory are defined (attractor, bifurcation, fractal). The reader can also learn about Mendelbrot’s sets and some of its features. The most interesting parts of the text are the ontological implications and author’s position in the dispute on reductionism. In reference to the former, the ontological monism is supported which is similar to the early Greek philosophers (who were looking for arche) as well as to the process philosophy. Yet the found arche is rather of material / physical character. The another consequence of the chaos theory is indeterminism. The chaos theory also supports the evolutionary approach, so that processes which are observed in nature are spontaneous and emerge without any ontological reasons. The nature however tends to the certain order. In reference to the dispute about reductionism, in author’s view, the chaos theory supports the ontological reductionism.

Commentary

It is nice to find in Polish literature the text regarding philosophical consequences of the modern researches on chaos and complexity. If we agree that the philosophy should be inspired by the scientific discoveries and should explore their possible implications, chaos theory and complexity must not be neglected. Nevertheless the conclusions presented in the text either goes too far or seems to base on misunderstandings of the described theories. Up to date, most of the discoveries within the field of chaos and complexity are not discoveries in the strict sense of the term. Especially it refers to the examples mentioned by the author. They are exclusively the trials to find mathematical models which could be similar or at least analogous to the natural phenomena. If worked out models accurately describe the nature in some of its aspects, is still unknown, as it is extremely hard to confirm or falsify those models empirically. Nevertheless even IF they are accurate, I can hardly agree that such a description of some natural phenomena can really support any of the mentioned ontological views. In case of ontological monism the reasoning looks similar to those, practiced by some thinkers just after Newton published Principia Mathematica. They were ready and eager to apply the proposed method to any fields of our cognition, including social and psychological ones. In consequence the world emerged as a perfectly working clockwork. Even less comprehensible is the support for indeterminism. The proposed models (especially Lorenz set of equations) are strictly deterministic. They are chaotic only in terms of their complexity, instability and intracktability. We can discuss its consequences in terms of epistemological restrictions but ontologically, if any, they rather support deterministic approach. The arguments for reductionism is just the another version of ontological monism.

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26/03/2010

Short Review: Naturalising Ethics: The Implications of Darwinism for the Study of Moral Philosophy. Cartwright, J.

Naturalising Ethics: The Implications of Darwinism for the Study of Moral Philosophy

John Cartwright, Springer

Attempts to place Darwinism and evolutionary ethics as an indispensible aid to ethical deliberations. Offers a considerable amount of useful research in support of evolutionary theory’s explanatory power while admitting that our initial reactions have evolved into something more. Attempts to rebut charges of the naturalistic fallacy with varying degrees of success.

Theses

  • Holds that the role of Darwinism has been overlooked by moral philosophers, possibly (and understandably) as a result of earlier misconceptions.
  • Outlines a number of interesting examples of the explanatory power of evolutionary theory, including: morality being species specific; kin altruism; tragedy of the commons; mirror neurons and the avoidance of incest.
  • Makes a number of claims concerning the naturalistic fallacy, some of which are more convincing than others. These include:
  • T1: The fact that early Social Darwinists “confused the consequences of natural processes with their values” i.e. that the fact that “unbridled competition” played a role in the formation of some of our ethical sentiments does not mean that it has any influence on them nowadays.
  • T2: That Hume was misunderstood and that he actually maintained that “moral truths are inherent facts about human nature”.
  • T3: Ethical reasoning must somehow take natural facts into account
  • T4: All ethical theories must, to some extent, rely on natural facts.
  • He also sketches the main viewpoints of leading Darwinists, presents an outline of the teaching implications posed by Darwinism (although this feels somewhat superfluous and contrived) and a brief segment of the Kantian Categorical Imperative, again somewhat misplaced.

Discussion

  • An interesting combination of useful scientific data on the impact/explanatory power of evolutionary theory and a critique of the naturalistic fallacy. The remainder of the article is somewhat superfluous.
  • T1 is a valid point and well justified- obviously he argues that contemporary Darwinists would never leap to such conclusions.
  • T2 is an intriguing notion and follows Walter. Combined with T3 and T4, we do have a convincing argument for considering the findings of evolutionary theory yet the questions remains as to exactly how. Furthermore, whilst they clearly have powerful explanatory and descriptive force, they do not address 2 key points: firstly, in the sense that whilst they provide a clear is about human nature i.e. we tend to protect our family more than strangers, there is no clear ought – we no longer enjoy the same kind of kinship groups that led to the development of such capabilities and they are frequently a source of injustice. Secondly, they offer little for the understanding of how moral and ethical concepts have themselves evolved – mirror neurons play a role in both face to face contact and also when we watch, for example, a televised appeal for aid in Haiti.
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26/03/2010

Short Review: F. de Vignemont, T. Singer, The empathic brain: how, when and why?, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Vol. 10, No. 10. (October 2006), pp. 435-441.

Short Review: F. de Vignemont, T. Singer, The empathic brain: how, when and why?, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Vol. 10, No. 10. (October 2006), pp. 435-441.

Theses:

1) Empathy is not a purely automatic reaction to exposure to emotional state of others. Authors propose a new contextual approach. According to it, empathic brain responses are modified by “modulatory” factors.

2) Empathy plays two different roles: (1) an epistemological role and (2) a social role. In the first case, empathy provides information about the future actions of other people and important environmental properties. In the second case, empathy is understood as a source of the motivation for cooperative and prosocial behavior.

Abstract:

Authors question the assumption that the empathy should be understood as an automatic mechanism which become active every time when we observe others displaying emotion. They start from the presentation of various definitions of empathy, and chose one which is more narrow than others (there is empathy if: (1) one is in an affective state; (2) this state is isomorphic to another person’s affective state; (3) this state is elicited by the observation or imagination of another person’s affective state; (4) one knows that the other person is the source of one’s own affective state). Empathy as understood is a subject to contextual appraisal and modulation. This modulation needn’t necessary be a function of our conscious thought. Contrary to this intuition, modification of our empathic responses can be also fast and implicit. Therefore, we have two separate routs of modification our empathic response. Variables which can have impact on magnitude of our empathic response are – for example – as follows: age, personality, empathizer’s past experience, situational context (when we are exposed to more than one, and different form each other, emotional states of others). Also, as authors point out, people more easier empathize with primary emotions (fear, sadness) than with secondary emotions (jealously). Apart from describing ways in which empathy works, authors also propose an evolutionary answer for the question: why empathy evolved? It fulfills two major roles: (1) epistemological, which allows us to predict subsequent behavior of other members of society, and (2) social, because empathy is one of the source of the motivation for cooperative behavior. Authors, don’t claim however that possession of empathic brain responses is condition sine qua non for having morality.

Commentary:

Empathy as understood as in the paper becomes a very interesting mechanism, crucial for our social communications, and cooperative behaviors. Argument against understanding brain empathic responses in the purely automatic manner fits well in more broader way of argumentation which is present in contemporary neuroscience and philosophy.

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16/03/2010

Short review: Shaun Nichols, ,,On the Genealogy of Norms: A Case for the Role of Emotion in Cultural Evolution”, Philosophy of Science, 69 (2002), pp. 234-255.

Shaun Nichols, ,,On the Genealogy of Norms: A Case for the Role of Emotion in Cultural Evolution”, Philosophy of Science, 69 (2002), pp. 234-255.

I. Summary

(1) Theses:

(a)    Normative prohibitions against action X will be more likely to survive if action X elicits (or is easily led to elicit) negative affect.

(b)    Norms prohibiting ‘core-disgusting’ actions (i.e., actions that are likely to elicit core disgust) will enjoy greater cultural fitness than norms prohibiting actions that are unlikely to elicit core disgust (or other emotions).

(2) Abstract:

The author supports epidemiological approach to cultural evolution. On this account, one investigates cultural evolution by considering what makes certain cultural items more likely to prevail. Furthermore, the epidemiological approach maintains that the characteristics of human psychology will play an enormous role in determining which items are likely to survive. There is a large amount of data from psychology that supports the thesis that if a representation has an emotional component, this component enhances the chances of retention of such representations. Because, on a popular account, norms are considered to be representations, it follows that if norms elicit emotional responses there is a greater probability of their retention in comparison with norms that do not elicit such responses. Using this data, the author proceeds to investigate whether norms governing manners that elicit core-disgust (which is considered as a basic emotion) had greater chance of survival than norms governing manners that were affectively neutral. Testing of the above-mentioned thesis consisted in comparison of the etiquette norms from the most important manners book in history, Erasmus’ On Good Manners for Boys, with contemporary etiquette. The results showed that, out of 57 investigated norms from Erasmus’ book, over 90% that elicited core-disgust were part of contemporary manners and only around 30% of norms that did not elicit such response are regarded as a part of contemporary etiquette. These findings support the thesis (b). What is especially interesting, is that the author states that some of the moral norms, e.g. norms against harming others, prohibit actions that are likely to elicit negative affect. Because these moral norms ‘possess’ such emotional component, it shows why they ended up being so successful.

2. Comments:

(1) The article presents a very interesting and promising approach to the issue of the genealogy of norms. Traditional approaches to this issue (e.g. Nietsche’s account, evolutionary account) focus on the origin of norms (especially moral norms). The main problem with these approaches is that there is a lot of different ‘origin stories’ which seem to be equally plausible. The epidemiological account offers a more modest solution: we investigate what makes cultural items more likely to prevail.

(2) Because the main thesis states that norms which elicit emotional response are more likely to prevail, the familiar question about moral norms comes to mind: is an action wrong because we disapprove of it, or do we disapprove of it because it’s wrong?

(3) There is no doubt (the author agrees with that) that societal factors play an enormous role in determining which norms survive. If so, then perhaps societal factors play a more significant role in the survival of moral norms than in the  survival of manner norms. Therefore, moral norms require a similar investigation to the one carried out on manner norms before  we can plausibly extrapolate thesis (a) on moral norms.

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