Skip Navigation

2016 - Volume 37, Number 2, Spring

Robotic Alloparenting: A New Solution to an Old Problem?
Richard T. McClelland, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada

Recent science fiction films portray autonomous social robots as able to fulfill parental roles with human offspring and thus display a form of “alloparenting.” Alloparenting is widespread in the animal world, and involves care of the young by individuals not themselves their biological parents.  Such parenting by proxy affords substantial fitness benefits to the young and also to those who alloparent them, and is almost certainly an adaptive form of behavior. Review of developments in current robotic technology suggest very strongly that actual robots may well be capable of alloparenting in the near future. The paper goes on to suggest a view of human culture (as information) and its evolution that can explain how fictional treatments of robots and scientific robotics might converge on such a hypothesis.  Robotic alloparenting, finally, is presented as an extension of basic human capacities for cooperative and intelligent tool use, albeit by means of a non-biological platform.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Prof. Richard T. McClelland, Ph.D., 4513 Sheridan Ridge Road, Nanaimo, BC, V9T 6G3, Canada. Email: richmcc999@gmail.com

Neuroelectrical Approaches To Binding Problems
Mostyn W. Jones, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

How do separate brain processes bind to form unified, conscious percepts? This is the perceptual binding problem, which straddles neuroscience and psychology. In fact, two problems exist here: (1) the easy problem of how neural processes are unified, and (2) the hard problem of how this yields unified perceptual consciousness. Binding theories face familiar troubles with (1) and they do not come to grips with (2). This paper argues that neuroelectrical (electromagnetic-field) approaches may help with both problems. Concerning the easy problem, standard accounts of neural binding by synchrony, attention, and convergence raise serious difficulties. These are avoided by neuroelectrical approaches in which the brain’s field binds distributed processes in myriad neurons. Concerning the hard problem, binding theories do not squarely address how to get from neural unity to unified consciousness. This raises metaphysical difficulties involving reductions, emergence, etc. Neuroelectrical (and Russellian) approaches may help avoid these difficulties too. These approaches may thus deserve further investigation as binding theories.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Mostyn W. Jones, Ph.D., 4719 Wallingford Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 15213. Email: mwj412@gmail.com

Using Operational Definitions in Research: A Best-Practices Approach
Brent D. Slife, Casey D. Wright, and Stephen C. Yanchar, Brigham Young University

The use of operational definitions, though examined philosophically, has not been sufficiently examined from a practical perspective. The practice of operationalization offers obvious benefits to empirical researchers but suffers from a lack of attention to what has been referred to as translation validity. Because the relation between an operational definition and its underlying construct can never be measured, the quality of translation validity must be established through conceptual argumentation as well as more traditional means such as converging operations and historical precedent in the literature. More specifically, we suggest that any use of operational definitions should involve best practices related to three conceptual tasks: (a) clarification, in which researchers reflect on and clarify their potential operationalizations, (b) specification, in which researchers specify and take account of the difference between the construct of interest and what was actually studied via operational definitions, and (c) justification, in which researchers assess and defend the translation validity of their particular operationalizations.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Brent Slife, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah 84602. Email: slife@byu.edu

Science and Sympathy: “Intuition” and the Ethics of Human Judgment
David M. Boynton, Saint Michael’s College

Despite advances in our understanding of human judgment, there is still much work to be done to clarify how decision makers make wise or ethical judgments. In this article, a case is made that an understanding of wise judgment would require a theory of wisdom, and that wisdom and wise judgment entail integrated cognition. It will not do to define thinking in terms of two isolable systems. This is because thinking is quasi-rational, and involves a multidimensional array of variables whose values range continuously from relatively more rational at one end to relatively more experiential at the other. Dual-system models may be useful for defining the poles of the multidimensional cognitive continuum, but there is more to wise judgment than thinking fast or slow. The proposed approach is novel, because it provides a framework by which to examine empirically the ways in which rational and experiential elements of thinking can be integrated, and judgments can be calibrated appropriately to the task at hand.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to David Boynton, Ph.D., Psychology Department, Saint Michael’s College Box 388, 1 Winooski Park, Colchester, Vermont 05439. Email: dboynton@smcvt.edu

Critical Notice

Evidence Matters: Science, Proof, and Truth in the Law
Book Author: Susan Haack. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014, 446 pages, $34.99 paperback.
Reviewed by Erica Beecher–Monas, Wayne State University

Expert testimony has troubled judges for centuries. Since judges rarely have backgrounds in science, having to tell genuine knowledge from hokum is frequently a challenge, especially in this era of increasing courtroom use of expert testimony. In this book of “interdisciplinary essays,” Susan Haack, renowned epistemologist, attempts to teach judges something about how to evaluate scientific testimony by focusing on the intersection of law, philosophy, and science, invoking concepts of inquiry and truth as they are used in all three disciplines.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Professor Erica Beecher–Monas, Wayne State University School of Law, 471 West Palmer Avenue, Detroit, Michigan 48202. Email: e.beecher@wayne.edu

Book Review

Knowledge through Imagination
Book Authors: Amy Kind and Peter Kung (Editors). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016, 272 pages, $74.00 hardcover
Reviewed by Masashi Kasaki, Kyoto University and Kengo Miyazono, Hiroshima University

Until recently, imagination has suffered an unfortunate fate in contemporary philosophy. Although it was often discussed, or at least comprised an important part of the background discussion, from the early modern to the modern period of philosophy, imagination has not received the attention it deserved in twentieth century philosophy. The wheels of fate, however, are turning again; imagination is now a hot topic in many fields of philosophy, including epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of psychology, ethics, etc. This book is a welcome addition to the recent growing literature on imagination, and it comprises an excellent collection of ten essays pertinent to the epistemology of imagination.​

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Masashi Kasaki, JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow, Graduate School of Letters, Kyoto University, Yoshida Honmachi, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan.  Email: kasa2005@gmail.com


Back to 2016