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Lloyd, Elisabeth A., , . Evolutionary Psychology: The Burdens of Proof
1999, Biology and Philosophy 14 (2):211-233.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Carl Hoefer; Patricia Rich

Abstract: I discuss two types of evidential problems with the most widely touted experiments in evolutionary psychology, those performed by Leda Cosmides and interpreted by Cosmides and John Tooby. First, and despite Cosmides and Tooby’s claims to the contrary, these experiments don’t fulfil the standards of evidence of evolutionary biology. Second Cosmides and Tooby claim to have performed a crucial experiment, and to have eliminated rival approaches. Though they claim that their results are consistent with their theory but contradictory to the leading non-evolutionary alternative, Pragmatic Reasoning Schemas theory, I argue that this claim is unsupported. In addition, some of Cosmides and Tooby’s interpretations arise from misguided and simplistic understandings of evolutionary biology. While I endorse the incorporation of evolutionary approaches into psychology, I reject the claims of Cosmides and Tooby that a modular approach is the only one supported by evolutionary biology. Lewontin’s critical examinations of the applications of adaptationist thinking provide a background of evidentiary standards against which to view the currently fashionable claims of evolutionary psychology

Comment: This paper provides important constructive criticism of the influential evolutionary psychology research program. It makes sense to discuss it together with an introduction to that program, for example 'Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer'

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Midgley, Mary, , . Individualism and the Concept of Gaia
2001, Science and Poetry, chapter 17. Routledge.
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Added by: Anne-Marie McCallion, Contributed by:

Abstract: The idea of Gaia—of life on earth as a self-sustaining natural system—is not a gratuitous, semi-mystical fantasy. It is a really useful idea, a cure for distortions that spoil our current world-view. Its most obvious use is, of course, in suggesting practical solutions to environmental problems. But, more widely, it also attacks deeper tangles which now block our thinking. Some of these are puzzles about the reasons why the fate of our planet should concern us. We are bewildered by the thought that we might have a duty to something so clearly non-human. But more centrally, too, we are puzzled about how we should view ourselves. Current ways of thought still tend to trap us in the narrow, atomistic, seventeenth-century image of social life which grounds today’s crude and arid individualism, though there are currently signs that we are beginning to move away from it. A more realistic view of the earth can give us a more realistic view of ourselves as its inhabitants.

Comment: This is an easy text to read and so would be fine for less experienced philosophers. Midgley argues that Lovelock’s Gaia constitutes a way of seeing the world (or myth) that has important consequences for multiple aspects of our lives (social, political, moral, etc.) by combating the unhelpful individualism she sees as stemming from the social contract myth. Whilst this text is easy to read, there is a lot going on under the surface which arguably conflicts with standard assumptions about philosophical practice (in particular, Midgley’s pluralism and account of myths). As such, it is a great text for bringing these things to the fore and exploring a different view of what philosophy is for. It would be suitable for courses pertaining to environmental ethics, animal ethics or interdisciplinary discussions regarding the environment and ecology.

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Schrader-Frechette, Kristin, , . Individualism, Holism, and Environmental Ethics
1996, Ethics and the Environment, 1 (1): 55-69.
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Added by: Rochelle DuFord, Contributed by:

Abstract: Neoclassical economists have been telling us for years that if we behave in egoistic, individualistic ways, the invisible hand of the market will guide us to efficient and sustainable futures. Many contemporary Greens also have been assuring us that if we behave in holistic ways, the invisible hand of ecology will guide us to health and sustainable futures. This essay argues that neither individualism nor holism will provide environmental sustainability. There is no invisible hand, either in economics or in ecology. Humans have no guaranteed tenure in the biosphere. Likewise there is no philosophical quick fix for environmental problems, either through the ethical individualism of Feinberg, Frankena, and Regan, or through the ecological holism of Callicott and Leopold. The correct path is more complex and tortuous than either of these ways. The essay argues that the best way to reach a sustainable environmental future probably is through a middle path best described as “hierarchical holism.”.

Comment: This text intervenes in the debate over holism and individualism in environmental ethics--specifically, as it concerns questions of environmental protection and conservation. It would fit well in a course on environmental ethics that discusses questions of either the metaphysics of nature or the nature of value.

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Zahle, Julie, , . The individualism-holism debate on intertheoretic reduction and the argument from multiple realization.
2003, Philosophy of the Social Sciences 33.1: 77-99.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Patricia Rich

Abstract: The argument from multiple realization is currently considered the argument against intertheoretic reduction. Both Little and Kincaid have applied the argument to the individualism-holism debate in support of the antireductionist holist position. The author shows that the tenability of the argument, as applied to the individualism-holism debate, hinges on the descriptive constraints imposed on the individualist position. On a plausible formulation of the individualist position, the argument does not establish that the intertheoretic reduction of social theories is highly unlikely. Nonetheless, the reductive project may run into other potential obstacles. For this reason, it is concluded that the prospect of intertheoretic reduction is uncertain rather than unlikely.

Comment: This reading discusses one of the most important arguments in the methodological individualism / holism debate in the philosophy of social science. It is recommended for a philosophy of social science class.

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