There’s no success quite like failure

In this week’s Wired magazine there’s an article on the way scientists think. “We’ve heard this all before,” I hear you savvy-with-the-philosophy-of-science readers say. Right. And the results reported are similar to what we’ve heard before too: scientists interpret anomalies as methodologically generated, and so removable from their data, until that is no longer an option, and a change of how one goes about interpreting the data is required (cf. Kuhn on anomalies). If Popper ever meant to describe what scientists actually do, he would have been quite wrong.

The supposed novelty of the work reported by Wired is Continue reading “There’s no success quite like failure”


The placebo effect as a ‘looping kind’

The idea has been floated that when psychiatrists classify people and effect that classification through education, medical practice, and popular culture, those people can become aware of their being so classified and thence render the original classification obsolete. The idea is Ian Hacking’s and he calls the phenomenon, ‘looping kinds.’

Whereas Hacking applies this idea to kinds of people, research reported in Wired suggests that a similar phenomenon can be witnessed in the infamous placebo effect.

There has been a rise in the placebo effect since the 1990s. Part of the explanation is this. Drug companies create advertisements. The aim is to make the drug more appealing than the others at the point of sale. But the result has been an increase in positive expectations and experiences at point of consumption.

By effecting a classification of a drug through education, medical practice and popular culture, the activity of undergoing treatment and recovery from illness, has looped: it has been caused to change by how it has been widely (mis)understood.

For the original article go here.

Related articles:
£1.99 - small Natural Kinds and Natural Kind Terms
By Kathrin Koslicki , University of Colorado at Boulder
(Vol. 3, June 2008)
Philosophy Compass

Don’t mention the war: or, doing what you didn’t want to do

In last week’s issue of Science Daniel Wegner, a psychologist at Harvard University, summarised his research into a peculiarly incompetent example of agency. There are various actions we perform. We fix on our goal and act in a way that will bring it about. But sometimes we go about trying to not do something. Ever make a mental note not to mention a sore point in conversation, only to bring it up? Wegner calls these phenomena “ironic effects” and proposes that they are the effects of a monitoring process the brain undergoes when we try to avoid thinking about or doing something. Unsurprisingly, he found that “effective strategies include accepting symptoms rather than attempting to control them.” I.e. the best way to not do something is, sometimes, to stop trying to not do it. In the same way one does not maximise one’s pleasure by trying to maximise one’s pleasure (the paradox of hedonism), successful exercises of agency do not always follow the simple model of directing one’s thought or will toward one’s goal.

For an interview with Daniel Wegner go here.

Related articles:

$1.99 - smallThe Phenomenology of Agency
By Tim Bayne, University of Oxford
(Vol. 3, January 2008)
Philosophy Compass

$1.99 - smallThe Natural Philosophy of Agency
By Shaun Gallagher, University of Central Florida
(Vol. 2, February 2007)
Philosophy Compass