Hosei Erasmus Mundus Program Euro Pholosophy

Hosei Erasmus Mundus Program, Euro Pholosophy - Over the two academic years 2008-9 and 2009-10 at Hosei University, classes for the first semester of "Euro Philosophy", an EU Erasmus Mundus Master Program, have taken the form of one-month intensive lecture series. This is the first instance in Japan of administering such a large-scale intensive lecture series within the Erasmus Mundus Master Program.

Report

Kijima and Hoquet Lecture Meeting (Hosei University) (2013)

A symposium was held at Hosei University on 16 April, and we heard presentations from Professor Thierry Hoquet of University of Lyon III, and Mr. Taizo Kijima, doctoral researcher at Hosei University.

Firstly, Mr. Kijima's presentation investigated whether the discussion of Epicureanism that the character, Philo, develops in Dialogues concerning Natural Religion by David Hume (1710-1776), is a forerunner of Darwin's theory of evolution. The character Philo who appears in Dialogues concerning Natural Religion criticizes the stance called "design theory" that seeks God's design in the complexity of nature, instead, developing several explanatory theories for the natural world in place of design theory. One of these is the epicureanistic viewpoint on which Kijima focused in his presentation. A feature of epicuraeanism is thought to be its negation of teleology, while the natural world functions by chance, but Philo adds several amendments to these ideas, attempting to understand the world as a self-supporting world through the movement of erratic particles.
The epicureanistic cosmology proposed by Philo has links with Darwin in many points, but Kijima argues that we cannot count Hume as an originator of the notion of natural selection. Natural selection is concerned with the process of capturing special characteristics that will adapt a living being to its environment, whereas the world system devised by Philo is one created instantly as a whole - lacking the element that determines Darwin's thinking, of "variation by rebirth". Even if we can say that Hume held an idea that was in one way forerunner to evolution theory, it is confined to the one aspect, "Hume as epicureanist"; in great contrast, Hume himself, at the same time, lived life as a thinker within the tradition of natural religion. Kijima introduced this point by showing how in Dialogues concerning Natural Religion Philo acknowledges a certain compromise with design theory.

Following Mr. Kijima, the presentation given by Professor Hoquet was entitled, "Darwin teleologist? The book on Orchids and the question of Design".
When Darwin announced his Origin of Species in 1859, there was much contemporary criticism that it was not founded on experimental evidence. So Darwin attempted to prove the theory of natural selection by observation research of orchids. That research culminated in a paper of 1862 titled "The Various Contivances by which British and Foreign Orchids are Fertilized by Orchids". This presentation deals centrally with this paper on orchids, and aims at giving a definite answer to the question, "Is Darwin a teleologist?".
There are 2 meanings of teleology: one is the indication of a certain design in the existence of contrivances within nature, and the other is the prediction that, from the fact that such design exists, there must be some sort of creator at the base of it. If we understand this creator to be God, then teleology becomes at the same time theology. There are various critiques of Darwin on the problem of teleology: some such as Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895) interpreted Darwin's system as a "deathblow" to teleology, whilst Rudolf Albert von Kölliker (1817-1905) understood Darwin as a pure teleologist. There were even some for whom Darwin's theory provided a framework fundamental to natural theology. Basis for the hypothesis that Darwin was a dysteleologist lies in the fact that natural selection has no predetermined destination; this is a standpoint emphasizing what Darwin suggested in Origin of Species. On the other hand the proposal that links Darwin with teleology is founded on the point that Darwin saw design in certain species within the contrivances of living things in the natural world. This is the standpoint seen by many in the content of the paper "The Orchids".
From the above, Hoquet states that in one sense it was Darwin's intention to give rise to various conflicting opinions through his theory. Darwin himself declared that his theory acknowledges interpretation from a theological viewpoint, and it was not his desire to encourage antagonism between the theological and atheist (or teleological and dysteleological) viewpoints. The presentation concluded that Darwin opened his own arguments to anything from atheism to natural theology, and as a result, permitted many interpretations.

Mr. Kijima and Professor Hoquet
Scene in the hall

Ciprian Jeler Lecture Meeting (University of Tokyo) (2013)

From 3.30pm on Monday, 22 April a lecture meeting was held in the staff meeting room in 2F Hobun II Building of Hongo Campus, University of Tokyo, and was a lecture given by Professor Ciprian Jeler of Alexandru Ioan CuzaUniversity of Iaşi, Romania. His presentation title on this occasion was "The Price approach to multi-level selection scenarios and its implications for individual and group selection". (An example of Professor Jeler's research related to this presentation is the following: "What Does Multi-level Selection Tell us about the Causal Nature of Natural Selection?" [Philosophy Abstracts 7th Annual
International Conference on Philosophy 28-31 May 2012, Athens, Greece]).

Beginning with research of "action" as found in H. Bergson (1859-1941), Professor Jeler, who is concerned with the Philosophy of Biology, then commentated in his presentation upon the debate around "group selection" and "individual selection" that arise in the theory of "natural selection", also examining the "multi-level selection theory" advocated by Elliott Sober (1948-) and D.S. Wilson (1949-).

In the case of the premise that living things act with the aim of protection of their species, "natural selection" can be understood as "group selection", by considering their working as a species or group rather than as an individual. It can be concluded that this altruism, that is, a group of many individuals whose actions prioritise others rather than themselves within a group of different animals or fellow members, makes it easy to survive. The concept of "group selection" found popularity in the 1950s, but since then it has drawn criticism from the likes of Richard Dawkins (1941-), and the view has strengthened that "natural selection" means working for the individual. The most powerful argument is the "Inclusive Fitness Theory". Although there has been a retreat in the thinking of "group selection", there is consideration of "natural selection" as working on various levels such as family, individual and genes: in other words, that it works on a multi-level. Sober and Wilson believe that this could mean the revival of "group selection" theory.

The presentation had much specialist content, and it saw participation from scholars of biology as well as philosophy. It proved a valuable opportunity to discover the latest moves in research in this field.

Professors Jeler and Suzuki(Chair)
Scene in the meeting room
Professor Jeler

Classes by Professor Ciprian Jeler (2013)

Professor Ciprian Jeler of Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iaşi, Romania, gave a series of 6 classes. Their theme was "Aspects of Causality in Current Debates on the Theory of Evolution (Aspects de la causalité dans les débats actuels sur la théorie de l'évolution)", and they chiefly provided a commentary on the history of research in the field centring round the issues of evolution theory. An example of research by Professor Jeler related to these lectures can be found in the following: "Causal partitioning and causal status in multi-level natural selection"[Evidence and Causality in the Sciences Canterbury, 5-7 September 2012]by the Centre for Reasoning at the University of Kent.

The blogger is new to biology, but will mention the 2 most interesting points of the lectures. The first is the great problem of how should the concept of "natural selection" be understood post Charles Darwin (1809-1882) and his evolution theory; in other words, should we interpret "natural selection" as having accidental nature, or should we explain it more in causal terms as has been fervently debated in the philosophy of biology? The second point concerns the debate on "group selection" and "individual selection" within "natural selection" that has been continuing since the 1950s, and the problem of which interpretation is more persuasive.

I was impressed whilst listening to the lectures by how precisely - much more so than I had imagined - current research is directed into the above issues. For example, regarding the latter point, in accordance with the thinking behind the "multi-level selection theory" proposed by Elliott Sober (1948-) and D. S. Wilson (1949-), I felt that it would be difficult to unilaterally support either of the "individual selection" and "group selection" theories. Furthermore, by showing the connection between the issue of "causality" and the "price equation" and "multi-level selection" devised by American population geneticist, George Price, we discovered how to look probingly into the issue, and also to consider its validity: testament to Professor Jeler's deep interest in the subject.

The lectures, contained specialist biology, yet Professor Jeler's easily understood explanation made it possible to learn much about the issues at the heart of the field, and also the various approach methods in use.


Professor Jeler