Congratulations to the winners of the 2016 Philosopher’s Annual!

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Each year, The Philosopher’s Annual faces the daunting task of selecting the 10 best articles in philosophy published that year. For 2016, they’ve chosen two articles from journals published by Wiley: Shamik Dasgupta’s article “Metaphysical Rationalism,” published in Noûs, and Una Stojnić’s article “One’s Modus Ponens: Modality, Coherence and Logic,” published in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.

 

Congratulations to Shamik Dasgupta, Una Stojnić, and to all the 2016 award winners!

 

How to Get Published in the Humanities: The Wiley Humanities Festival

There’s no question that research can change the world – and great research can come from scholars from any background and any academic discipline. Last year, Wiley launched the first Wiley Humanities Festival to explore the myriad ways that the Humanities matter and are vital not only to research and academia, but to life.. The infographic below is a snapshot of the success of last year’s festival.

The Wiley Humanities Festival is back again this year and we’re focusing on you, the researcher! The main event of this year’s festival is our FREE webinar, Humanities Publishing 101, (September 7 at 10amEST/3pmGMT) which aims to help early career researchers navigate the unwritten rules of publishing in the Humanities.

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Register now and join us on September 7th to learn how to get your research published!

If you have any questions regarding the webinar or festival, please contact me, Josh Hendrick, Humanities Research Marketer at jhendrick@wiley.com or leave a comment below.

The Journal of Philosophy of Education: Opening the Archive

Celebrating 50 years of research from Journal of Philosophy of Education

JOPE VSI Banner AdHow to celebrate the 50th birthday of the Journal of Philosophy of Education (JOPE)? We made a start by looking though every print copy of every Issue of the Journal’s 50 volumes and reading many papers.

We discovered papers way ahead of their time, as well as long threads of argument which we followed through many Issues, a 20-year-old page-turner of a paper on assessment, Alasdair MacIntyre in conversation about education. We had some surprises. Going by how often his name appears in titles and abstracts of papers, Nietzsche is, after Dewey, the philosopher most frequently referred to by contributors. In the first 10 volumes 50% of the Issues had no women contributors. By the most recent decade this had dwindled to 3%. How had that happened? We also looked for the most popular and least popular topics and were amazed at what we discovered.

It soon dawned on us that the very best way of marking our 50th anniversary was to offer readers something like the experience we ourselves had been having. Our Collection, The Journal 1966- 2016, is intended to do that. The papers it contains are not necessarily the best, the most cited or the most popular, but ones chosen for their power to introduce readers to the wealth of material in this rich Archive. The 25 papers each have a Note, called Context and Connections, with hyperlinks to help readers, using the Wiley Online Library Tools, to explore their research and teaching interests in the Archive. An Editorial elaborates on insights we gained from working in the Archive, as well as sketching a brief history of JOPE.

But this Virtual Special Issue is not just a collection of papers with notes attached. In Video Interviews two former Editors, Richard Smith and Paul Standish, and a current Assistant Editor, Doret de Ruyter, talk about how they see JOPE and its future. Judith Suissa, another Assistant Editor, interviews John White, whose first contribution was in 1970 and his most recent in 2016. Morwenna Griffiths comments on JOPE and gender and the PESGB as a place for women to do philosophy. Michael Hand introduces the Impact pamphlet series. Darren Chetty, Andrea English and Mary Healy talk about presenting papers at the PESGB Annual Conference – where many JOPE papers start their life – and their experience of submitting papers to JOPE. And we, as co-editors, talk about how we made our selection and speculate about how we think readers might use it.

-Patricia White and Bob Davis, JOPE


Guest Bloggers:

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Patricia White, JOPE Editorial Board Member

 

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Bob Davis, JOPE Editor

 

Why philosophy must be multicultural

sep11-multiculturalism-300All of us who work at universities know it: Diversity promotes creativity. The intellectual environments that contain people of different genders, origins, cultures, and educational backgrounds tend to be the most creative ones. New ideas emerge when different perspectives meet.

Philosophy, with its long dialogue tradition, can be a wonderful meeting-ground for different experiences and cultural traditions. I also believe that human and cultural diversity is even more important in philosophy than in most other academic subjects. Let me explain why.

There are at least three arguments for diversity in an academic discipline. The first and most obvious argument is that of equal opportunity. Secondly, there is the recruitment argument. If we only recruit white males, then we will miss all the talented people who do not belong to that minority. These two arguments apply equally to all academic subjects. But then there is a third argument that is more important for some disciplines than for others, namely that of specific contributions: In some disciplines there is a particularly strong need for people with a wide variety of life experiences in order to see things from as many perspectives as possible. This applies obviously to the social sciences. Female researchers in sociology and economics have put focus on the life conditions of women. Members of ethnic minorities have uncovered previously ignored aspects of their country’s history.

As I see it, this applies to philosophy as well. In order to see what is universal in the human experience we need to combine as many different perspectives as possible. In order to philosophize better we need to be a diverse lot in terms of backgrounds and life experiences. It would be a serious mistake to see gender equality, multiculturalism and the representation of minorities as some sort of “external” requirement that is imposed on us. We need diversity in order to do our job properly.

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Sven Ove Hansson
Editor-in-chief of Theoria

Of course, Ethics Matters

udoI’m a consequentialist, so forgive me if I don’t spend a great deal of time parsing the meaning of ‘ethics matters’. I shall leave that task to ‘real’ philosophers. Ethics uncontroversially matters if we take ‘matters’ to mean ‘be of consequence’. In case you doubt this claim, and you should not, let me give you just a few high-profile examples.
‘…the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? Why should the law refuse its protection to any sensitive being?’ Most students of ethics will have come across Jeremy Bentham’s rhetorical question that changed the nature of the international animal rights movement. Having taught bioethics for a bit more than two decades now, I can testify to the large number of students whose views on the moral status of animals were changed for good by Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation. A lot of the students have sworn off eating sentient non-human animals altogether.
While I’m talking about Peter Singer, he published a while ago a piece in the first issue of a that-time unknown little journal called Philosophy and Public Affairs. He called it ‘Famine, Affluence and Morality’. Leaving aside for a moment that this journal article has become a mainstay in ethics undergraduate course, textbooks and whatnot else, Singer eventually used his stature to start a movement asking us to contribute individually to particular charities that are most likely to generate the greatest impact from our donations. Do a Google search to check on the large number of activist groups his arguments have spawned. You’d try the same for the work of influential feminist ethicists such as Judith Jarvis Thompson’s work, or that of Sue Sherwin.
Another area where ethics matters a great deal is in the context of policy development. Just think of research ethics. Binding research policy documents in most countries today are the result of extensive debates about the ethics of clinical research, exploitation in non-therapeutic research in the global south and other such issues.
The introduction of medical aid in dying in an ever-growing number of jurisdictions owes much to ethicists who have dissected normative counter arguments and whose works have been cited in some of the most consequential court and/or parliamentary proceedings, certainly in the Anglo-Saxon world.
Ethics apparently motivates ethicists to do the right thing, going beyond merely producing academic content. A number of Australian academics have not only published academic content on Australia’s appalling treatment of refugees, they have also become activists trying to change the status quo. Those who argue that ethics also provides reasons for action might gain satisfaction from knowing that there are at least some examples suggesting that they might be on to something.
Arguably, the works of ethicists as well as political philosophers have significantly contributed to public reason becoming the modus operandi of political debate in multi-cultural societies all over the globe. Apparently, ethics can matter. Of course, I could point you to any number of ethics papers that have aimed to remain inconsequential and they succeeded fully on that count. It is worth raising the question of the ethics of such ethics content production.

Udo Schuklenk, Professor of Philosophy and Ontario Research Chair in Bioethics
Joint Editor-in-Chief Bioethics and Developing World Bioethics
Department of Philosophy
Queen’s University
Kingston, Ontario
Canada

Congratulations 2015 Philosopher’s Annual Winners!

julius_leblanc_stewart_-_a_toastOnce again, The Philosopher’s Annual took on the task to choose the 10 best articles in philosophy published in 2015. We are very pleased they chose two articles from journals published by Wiley: Chiara Cordelli’s article “Justice as Fairness and Relational Resources,” published in the Journal of Political Philosophy, and Kenny Easwaran’s article “Dr. Truthlove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Bayesian Probabilities,” published in Noûs.

Congratulations to Chiara Cordelli, Kenny Easwaran, and to all the 2015 award winners!

Are Our Brains Bayesian?

Significance MagazineIn a fascinating article published in Significance, author Robert Bain delves into the arguments for and against viewing human judgements and decisions in terms of Bayesian inference. We are grateful to Significance and the editor, Brian Tarran, for permission to publish the excerpt below. 


The human brain is made up of 90 billion neurons connected by more than 100 trillion synapses. It has been described as the most complicated thing in the world, but brain scientists say that is wrong: they think it is the most complicated thing in the known universe. Little wonder, then, that scientists have such trouble working out how our brain actually works. Not in a mechanical sense: we know, roughly speaking, how different areas of the brain control different aspects of our bodies and our emotions, and how these distinct regions interact. The questions that are more difficult to answer relate to the complex decision-making processes each of us experiences: how do we form beliefs, assess evidence, make judgments, and decide on a course of action?

Figuring that out would be a great achievement, in and of itself. But this has practical applications, too, not least for those artificial intelligence (AI) researchers who are looking to transpose the subtlety and adaptability of human thought from biological “wetware” to computing hardware.

In looking to replicate aspects of human cognition, AI researchers have made use of algorithms that learn from data through a process known as Bayesian inference. Bayesian inference is a method of updating beliefs in the light of new evidence, with the strength of those beliefs captured using probabilities. As such, it differs from frequentist inference, which focuses on how frequently we might expect to observe a given set of events under specific conditions.

In the field of AI, Bayesian inference has been found to be effective at helping machines approximate some human abilities, such as image recognition. But are there grounds for believing that this is how human thought processes work more generally? Do our beliefs, judgments, and decisions follow the rules of Bayesian inference?

Pros

For the clearest evidence of Bayesian reasoning in the brain, we must look past the high-level cognitive processes that govern how we think and assess evidence, and consider the unconscious processes that control perception and movement.

Professor Daniel Wolpert of the University of Cambridge’s neuroscience research centre believes we have our Bayesian brains to thank for allowing us to move our bodies gracefully and efficiently – by making reliable, quick-fire predictions about the result of every movement we make. Wolpert, who has conducted a number of studies on how people control their movements, believes that as we go through life our brains gather statistics for different movement tasks, and combine these in a Bayesian fashion with sensory data, together with estimates of the reliability of that data. “We really are Bayesian inference machines,” he says.

Other researchers have found indications of Bayesianism in higher-level cognition. A 2006 study by Tom Griffiths of the University of California, Berkeley, and Josh Tenenbaum of MIT asked people to make predictions of how long people would live, how much money films would make, and how long politicians would last in office. The only data they were given to work with was the running total so far: current age, money made so far, and years served in office to date. People’s predictions, the researchers found, were very close to those derived from Bayesian calculations.

Cons

Before we accept the Bayesian brain hypothesis wholeheartedly, there are a number of strong counter-arguments. For starters, it is fairly easy to come up with probability puzzles that should yield to Bayesian methods, but that regularly leave many people flummoxed. For instance, many people will tell you that if you toss a series of coins, getting all heads or all tails is less likely than getting, for instance, tails–tails–heads–tails–heads. It is not and Bayes’ theorem shows why: as the coin tosses are independent, there is no reason to expect one sequence is more likely than another.

“There’s considerable evidence that most people are dismally non-Bayesian when performing reasoning,” says Robert Matthews of Aston University, Birmingham, and author of Chancing It, about the challenges of probabilistic reasoning. “For example, people typically ignore base-rate effects and overlook the need to know both false positive and false negative rates when assessing predictive or diagnostic tests.”

Diagnostic test accuracy explained

How is it that a diagnostic test that claims to be 99% accurate can still give a wrong diagnosis 50% of the time? In testing for a rare condition, we scan 10 000 people. Only 1% (100 people) have the condition; 9900 do not. Of the 100 people who do have the disease, a 99% accurate test will detect 99 of the true cases, leaving one false negative. But a 99% accurate test will also produce false positives at the rate of 1%. So, of the 9900 people who do not have the condition, 1% (99 people) will be told erroneously that they do have it. The total number of positive tests is therefore 198, of which only half are genuine. Thus the probability that a positive test result from this “99% accurate” test is a true positive is only 50%.

Life’s hard problems

All in all, that is quite a bit of evidence in favour of the argument that our brains are non-Bayesian. But do not forget that we are dealing with the most complicated thing in the known universe, and these fascinating quirks and imperfections do not give a complete picture of how we think.

Eric Mandelbaum, a philosopher and cognitive scientist at the City University of New York’s Baruch College, says this kind of irrationality “is most striking because it arises against a backdrop of our extreme competence. For every heuristics-and-biases study that shows that we, for instance, cannot update base rates correctly, one can find instances where people do update correctly.”

So while our well-documented flaws may shed light on the limits of our capacity for probabilistic analysis, we should not write off the brain’s statistical abilities just yet. Perhaps what our failings really reveal is that life is full of really hard problems, which our brains must try and solve in a state of uncertainty and constant change, with scant information and no time.


We hope you enjoyed this excerpt. Go here to read the full article – free to access through August!


About the Author

Robert Bain

Robert Bain is a freelance journalist. He was previously editor of Lux magazine and deputy editor of Research magazine.

 

 

 


About the Magazine

Significance is published on behalf of the Royal Statistical Society and is a bimonthly magazine for anyone interested in statistics and the analysis and interpretation of data. Its aim is to communicate and demonstrate in an entertaining, thought-provoking and non-technical way the practical use of statistics in all walks of life and to show informatively and authoritatively how statistics benefit society.