Wednesday, 27 April 2016

A Defence of a Neo-Darwinian analysis of culture

Culture moulds us
Ingold in his “An Anthropologist looks at Biology” offers a critique on Neo-Darwinism. From the text, he seems to be referring to the theory that was popularised under Dawkins’ “Selfish Gene” moniker. Ingold argues convincingly that that is a theory that is not complete, such as it was in 1990. Neo-Darwinism then as now is a structure which allows for a well-defined, if abstracted account of evolution, one that can be convincingly put to use analysing the kinds of systems where evolution through fitness for reproduction may emerge. This model however also offers us a view on cultural evolution through the extension into memes.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Dialogism and the Psyche

This is review of an article by Salgado and Clegg, which is called Dialogism and the psyche: Bakhtin and contemporary psychology. The authors in their article argue that Bakhtin offered psychology a way to conceptualize and study human experience so that the notion of psyche is preserved and enriched. Then they discuss the implications of dialogism for theories of the self which focus on six basic principles of dialogical thought: the principles of relationality, dynamism, semiotic mediation, alterity, dialogicality, and contextuality. All together these principles refer to the notion of psyche.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

What about the brain?


In neuroscience the brain is the centre of everything. It is the control centre that allows us to be who we are and act as we do in our environments. Neuroscience is taught in a factual way, it is science and it is not to be questioned. Although there is a lot about the brain that scientists still do not understand, neuroscience is taught in a very confident way indicating that this is the way the brain works and this brain is how we as humans or animals are able to live. It is hard to go from this to a more enactive way of thinking, where the brain is simply another organ in the body. But the more I look into the enactive approach the more plausible it seems.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Tooling about with a Polar Planimeter

Dr. Jakob Amsler-Laffon
Not uniquely among animals, humans are a tool using animal. We seem to be very efficient at tool use, and also very efficient at teaching/learning how to use tools. Tooling about is something that we do. At a fundamental level toolmaking precedes us as a species. Toolmaking is something that the species that preceded us used. We evolved from a species that used tools.

At the broadest level, tools are those things that can expand our potential options for interacting with our world. The most obvious set of tools are the physical ones which with the skill to apply them correctly can grant us abilities that are not available to us otherwise, or make us more efficient at those that we have evolved to be capable of.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Is this stool taken?

Ai Weiwei, Bang, 2010-2013, 886 antique stools, installation view
I walked through and around Ai Weiwei’s 2013 Bang organic sculpture when it was exhibited in Vancouver last year. The unified sculpture emerges from the connection of 886 three-legged wooden stools, all of which were made by traditional Chinese craftsmen. 
Walking through the internal spaces created by the piece, the individual stools quickly lose their object distinction while the primacy of their relationship to the overall structure is established. There is also an awareness that appreciation can only be achieved by exploring it from its created internal spaces i.e. becoming part of it.  It was evident that the gallery had to adjust the exhibition space, rooms, and other works of art, to display Bang.  In that necessary adjustment to accommodate the sculpture, western and eastern cultural differences become apparent. The traditional western display of the Objet d’art for passive appreciation by a clearly distinct viewer can be contrasted with the eastern integration of both art and viewer to create an identifiable relationship.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Making sense of a Bayesian approach to the world.


With “Perceptual decision making: drift-diffusion model is equivalent to a Bayesian model” (2014) Blitzer et al. have taken the Bayesian approach to the problems that exist when we approach the world as a percepting decision maker. Their target of attack with this paper is the drift-diffusion model of perception, or at least the drift-diffusion model of following a dot as it traverses a computer screen under experimental conditions.

In this kind of experiment, a dot moves across the screen, along some vector, it’s local position is also subject to a Gaussian distribution centred upon the vector at time t.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Social constructivism and research in the human sciences

Social constructionism (SC) is a diverse intellectual field, comprising perspectives from philosophy, social science, pedagogy, art etc., that resists easy categorisation. It has often been unfairly derided by prominent academics, most notably in the evolutionary and psychological sciences. The argument against SC has been popularised by Steven Pinker (Blank Slate Ted Lecture)in his cutting critique of the blank slate model of humanity (favours the social environment as explanation for behaviour over innate factors e.g. genetic makeup). Whilst Pinker does some disservice to this literature he is right to challenge the role of the social (the product of our interactions with one another), as the sole determinant of behaviour. However, he underdetermines the validity of the social in shaping behaviour. I index his argument because it raises key points which framed the Science Wars and continues to polarise opinion along realist and anti-realist lines[1].