Scholarly Work - History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies

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    Meta-Critical Thinking, Paradox, and the Plethora of Probabilities
    (Frontiers Media SA, 2024-01) Brittan, Gordon; Taper, Mark
    There is as much lack of clarity concerning what “critical thinking” involves, even among those charged with teaching it, as there is consensus that we need more emphasis on it in both academia and society. There is an apparent need to think critically about critical thinking, an exercise that might be called meta-critical thinking. It involves emphasizing a practice in terms of which “critical thinking” is helpfully carried out and clarifying one or more of the concepts in terms of which “critical thinking” is usually defined. The practice is distinction making and the concept that of evidence. Science advances by constructing models that explain real-world processes. Once multiple potential models have been distinguished, there remains the task of identifying which models match the real-world process better than others. Since statistical inference has in large part to do with showing how data provide support, i.e., furnish evidence, that the model/hypothesis is more or less likely while still uncertain, we turn to it to help make the concept more precise and thereby useful. In fact, two of the leading methodological paradigms—Bayesian and likelihood—can be taken to provide answers to the questions of the extent to which as well as how data provide evidence for conclusions. Examining these answers in some detail is a highly promising way to make progress. We do so by way of the analysis of three well-known statistical paradoxes—the Lottery, the Old Evidence, and Humphreys’—and the identification of distinctions on the basis of which their plausible resolutions depend. These distinctions, among others between belief and evidence and different concepts of probability, in turn have more general applications. They are applied here to two highly contested public policy issues—the efficacy of COVID vaccinations and the fossil fuel cause of climate change. Our aim is to provide some tools, they might be called “healthy habits of mind,” with which to assess statistical arguments, in particular with respect to the nature and extent of the evidence they furnish, and to illustrate their use in well-defined ways.
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    “Whenever we exist on any land, we know it is our country”: Cocopa Mobility and the Colorado River in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, 1887–1936
    (Oxford University Press, 2023-01) Grant, Daniel A.
    This article argues that between the 1890s and the 1920s, Cocopa Indians successfully parried the threats of expanding settler nation-states and modern capitalism by adapting ancestral mobility patterns to modern constraints of the U.S.-Mexico border. By moving with the changing flow of the Colorado River and, later, providing a cheap and indispensable migratory labor supply for both U.S. and Mexican farmers and ranchers, Cocopas were surprisingly successful at retaining autonomy within their ancestral homeland, even as both governments sought to enforce the international border and to colonize Cocopa lands. But a series of impediments eventually placed new and lasting limits on Cocopas’ abilities to move freely through their homeland of the Colorado River delta. A detailed account of how and why Cocopas moved, how and why state agents tried to limit their movements, and how and why both of these factors changed over time helps us understand why some Native peoples retained vestiges of autonomy within their ancestral homelands during an era commonly associated with genocide, displacement, or assimilation on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. This story shows us that Native movement was not only a geopolitical act but depended upon the specific landscapes in which it occurred. Long after the ink had dried on the map, this portion of the U.S.-Mexico border was rendered unstable by a river that knew no bounds and a people who knew how to move with it.
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    Elegant conservation: reimagining protected area stewardship in the 21st century
    (Resilience Alliance, Inc., 2023-01) Bobowski, Ben; Fiege, Mark
    We present an approach to the conservation of protected areas that aligns cultural truths with scientific truths to increase community capacity for conservation. This alignment, which we call elegant conservation, asks protected area managers to reimagine how conservation can be inclusive of cultures and subcultures whose members value protected areas, but not in the same way. Reimagining how protected area managers approach conservation requires them to observe closely and holistically, with fresh eyes, human consciousness and behavior as well as relationships between people and between people and nature. Our approach connects the humanities, Western sciences, and other forms of knowledge, including Indigenous knowledge, in a manner that more sustainably builds social support for conservation. We first offer a heuristic of seven conditions that protected area managers can analyze when sizing up conservation issues and the people involved. We then propose a heuristic of five human tendencies—elements of human consciousness—that can help protected area managers and their partners organize constructive responses to any conservation issue. Our model of elegant conservation offers a pragmatic, holistic, inclusive alternative to top-down, reductive management approaches and is an outgrowth of modern American intellectual history, especially since the end of the Cold War, ca. 1989–1990. Elegant conservation presents an opportunity to help people find common ground and move protected area management beyond its origins in settler colonialism at a time of national and planetary crisis.
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    Understanding the Problem of “Hype”: Exaggeration, Values, and Trust in Science
    (Cambridge University Press, 2020-12) Intemann, Kristen
    Several science studies scholars report instances of scientific “hype,” or sensationalized exaggeration, in journal articles, institutional press releases, and science journalism in a variety of fields (e.g., Caulfield and Condit 2012). Yet, how “hype” is being conceived varies. I will argue that hype is best understood as a particular kind of exaggeration, one that explicitly or implicitly exaggerates various positive aspects of science in ways that undermine the goals of science communication in a particular context. This account also makes clear the ways that value judgments play a role in judgments of “hype,” which has implications for detecting and addressing this problem.
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    The Early Bronze IV — Middle Bronze I transition in the southern Levant: analysis and assessment
    (Informa UK Limited, 2022-06) Cohen, Susan L.
    The transition between the Early Bronze Age IV and the Middle Bronze Age in the southern Levant remains poorly understood, stemming in part from traditional approaches to the problem that frame it in terms of exogenous cultural origins and disjuncture versus indigenous growth and continuity of development. However, the growing range of diversity of data relating to both eras increasingly mitigates against such monocausal interpretations. Instead, assessment and analysis of different strands of evidence such as settlement patterns, subsistence practices and mortuary traditions, together with accompanying physical material culture, indicate that the transition between eras in the southern Levant was a complex and variable process that included considerable inter-regional variation, and incorporated both external influence and internal developments.
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    Reparative agency and commitment in William James’ pragmatism
    (Informa UK Limited, 2022-02) Sheehey, Bonnie
    This paper highlights a central feature of William James’ pragmatism to challenge the conflicting charges that his political and ethical thought amounts to either a Hamlet-like impotence or a Promethean-like sovereignty. I argue that James develops an account of reparative agency and commitment which figures in his philosophy of hope as a response to the problematics of action. Reparative agency concerns the possibility of acting in the midst of constraints that frustrate or otherwise inhibit action. Conceptualizing agency in this way entails a reevaluation of the status of commitment in James’ thought and the possibility of a more collective practice of hope.
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    Metaphorical and Literal Groundings: Unsettling Groundless Normativity in Environmental Ethics
    (Philosophy Documentation Center, 2020-01) Cook, Anna; Sheehey, Bonnie
    Accounts of grounded normativity in Indigenous philosophy can be used to challenge the groundlessness of Western environmental ethical approaches such as Aldo Leopold’s land ethic. Attempts to ground normativity in mainstream Western ethical theory deploy a metaphorical grounding that covers up the literal grounded normativity of Indigenous philosophical practices. Furthermore, Leopold’s land ethic functions as a form of settler philosophical guardianship that works to erase, assimilate, and effectively silence localized Indigenous knowledges through a delocalized ethical standard. Finally, grounded normativ­ity challenges settlers to question their desire for groundless normative theory and practice as reflective of their evasion of ethical responsibility for the destruction and genocide of Indigenous communities.
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    Absent autonomy: Relational competence and gendered paths to faculty self-determination in the promotion and tenure process
    (2018-09) Skewes, Monica C.; Shanahan, Elizabeth A.; Smith, Jessi L.; Honea, Joy C.; Belou, Rebecca M.; Rushing, Sara; Intemann, Kristen; Handley, Ian M.
    This research examines ways in which men and women university faculty sought self-determination in the promotion and tenure (P&T) process. Self-Determination Theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 2012) research tends to view autonomy as the central factor in self-determination, taking priority over other psychological needs of relatedness and competence. The P&T process occurs within a context that inherently limits autonomy, providing a unique opportunity to examine experiences of relatedness and competence when autonomy is constrained. We used a qualitative research strategy with a matched case study design to explore how individuals experience the constructs of SDT (i.e., autonomy, competence, and relatedness) within the P&T process. Our project focuses on faculty in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) departments undergoing P&T review at one university. Women faculty in STEM were compared with men faculty at the same rank and in similar departments concurrently going through P&T review. Findings showed that men reported experiencing self-determination via informational competence whereas women approached self-determination through relational competence. Creating a level playing field for faculty navigating the P&T process requires being attuned to different paths to self-determination, fostering relationships between faculty, and clarifying policies and procedures.
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    Disentangling canid howls across multiple species and subspecies: Structure in a complex communication channel
    (2016-03) Kershenbaum, Arik; Root-Gutteridge, Holly; Habib, Bilal; Koler-Matznick, Janice; Mitchell, Brian; Palacios, Vicente; Waller, Sara
    Wolves, coyotes, and other canids are members of a diverse genus of top predators of considerable conservation and management interest. Canid howls are long-range communication signals, used both for territorial defence and group cohesion. Previous studies have shown that howls can encode individual and group identity. However, no comprehensive study has investigated the nature of variation in canid howls across the wide range of species. We analysed a database of over 2000 howls recorded from 13 different canid species and subspecies. We applied a quantitative similarity measure to compare the modulation pattern in howls from different populations, and then applied an unsupervised clustering algorithm to group the howls into natural units of distinct howl types. We found that different species and subspecies showed markedly different use of howl types, indicating that howl modulation is not arbitrary, but can be used to distinguish one population from another. We give an example of the conservation importance of these findings by comparing the howls of the critically endangered red wolves to those of sympatric coyotes Canis latrans, with whom red wolves may hybridise, potentially compromising reintroduced red wolf populations. We believe that quantitative cross-species comparisons such as these can provide important understanding of the nature and use of communication in socially cooperative species, as well as support conservation and management of wolf populations.
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    The Game People Played: Mahjong in Modern Chinese Society and Culture
    (Research Institute of Korean Studies (RIKS) at Korea University and the Institute of East Asian Studies (IEAS) at the University of California, Berkeley, 2015-12) Greene, Maggie
    This article considers the discourse surrounding the popular Chinese table game of mahjong in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, using it as a barometer to trace social and cultural changes during the late Qing and Republican periods. After analyzing the connection between mahjong; its forerunner, madiao; and their antithesis, weiqi (go), it traces the changing position of mahjong in Chinese society from a game seemingly loathed by literati to a staple of bourgeois parlors. Drawing on a variety of journals, newspapers, and visual sources, the article further explores culture from class and gender perspectives in the late Qing and Republican periods, as mahjong moved from a visibly male activity to one largely associated with women. Finally, it considers the relationship between games and discourses of modernity, and the important changes taking place regarding leisure time in the twentieth century. The article argues that mahjong has been uniquely resistant to regulation and control. Enjoyment of the game spread across class and gender lines, despite the efforts of reformers, for reasons that reflect and embody key shifts from the late Qing dynasty through the end of the Republican period.
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    Against the Anthropocene. A Neo-Materialist Perspective
    (2015-04) LeCain, Timothy
    The dawning realization that the planet may have entered a new geological epoch called the Anthropocene could prove transformative. However, over the course of its brief history, the Anthropocene concept has often been framed in ways that reinforce, rather than challenge, the conventional modernist belief in a clear dividing line between human culture and a largely passive natural world, sharply limiting the concept’s potential utility. Reflecting the overestimation of human agency and power inevitably implied by a term that is often popularly translated as the ‘Age of Humans’, some have already begun to argue that powerful humans can be trusted to create a so-called ‘Good Anthropocene’ through massive geo-engineering projects. No deeper re-examination of the human relationship to the planet is thus necessary or desired. By contrast, this article draws on emerging neo-materialist theory to suggest a radically different approach that emphasizes the ways in which humans and their cultures have been created by and with a powerful material environment. The technologies of the thermo-industrial revolution are framed not so much as evidence of human power, but as evidence that the material world has a much greater power to shape human minds, cultures, and technologies than has heretofore been recognized by most scholars. From a neo-materialist perspective, the new geological epoch might be better termed the Carbocene: an age of powerful carbon-based fuels that have helped to create ways of thinking and acting that humans now find exceedingly difficult to escape. Might a more humble and cautious view of a creative and potentially dangerous planet offer a more effective means of spurring progress in combating global climate change than the misleading anthropocentrism inherent in a term like the Anthropocene?
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