Arno Wouters' Publications
- Maureen Sie & Arno Wouters "The real challenge to free will and responsibility" Trends in Cognitive Science 12(1): 3-4 (2008). (The final draft is available from my website.)
- Maureen Sie & Arno Wouters "The BCN-challenge to compatibilist free will and personal responsibility" Neuroethics 3(1): 121-133 (2010).
Many philosophers ignore developments in the behavioral, cognitive, and neurosciences that purport to challenge our ideas of free will and responsibility. The reason for this is that the challenge is often framed as a denial of the idea that we are able to act differently than we do. However, most philosophers think that the ability to do otherwise is irrelevant to responsibility and free will. Rather it is our ability to act for reasons that is crucial. We argue that the scientific findings indicate that it is not so obvious that our views of free will and responsibility can be grounded in the ability to act for reasons without introducing metaphysical obscurities. This poses a challenge to philosophers. We draw the conclusion that philosophers are wrong not to address the recent scientific developments and that scientists are mistaken in formulating their challenge in terms of the freedom to do otherwise.
For a more general public
- Arno Wouters "Neurowetenschap en mensbeeld" (lezing gehouden voor het expertseminar van het Heyendaal instituut, 2 oktober 2005) (in Dutch)
- Wouters, Arno G. "Ontoerekeningsvatbaarheid: een achterhaalde notie?" Neuropraxis 10(5): 136-139 (2006). The manuscript is available from my site.
Steeds meer wetenschappers pleiten op neurowetenschappelijke gronden voor de afschaffing van de notie van ontoerekeningsvatbaarheid. Ik beschouw een voorbeeld van zo'n pleidooi en laat zien dat het berust op een verkeerde veronderstelling betreffende de gronden van ontoerekeningsvatbaarheid.
- Wouters, Arno G. "Woont de persoon tussen de neuronen?" Filosofie, jrg. 17, nr. 4 (themanummer "De geest als natuurverschijnsel"), pp. 22-25.
- Arno Wouters "Vrije wil en verantwoordelijkheid in evolutionair perspectief" in: Maureen Sie (red.) Hoezo vrije wil? Perspectieven op een heikele kwestie (Uitgeverij Lemniscaat, 2011), hoofdstuk 10, pp. 190-209.
- Maureen Sie & Arno Wouters "Gedraag je! Over Auto's, Aansturing en Verantwoordelijkheid" Filosofie 21(3) 21-27 (aflevering 121, mei/juni 2011)
Wie de vrije wil ontkent doet veel stof opwaaien omdat die ontkenning grote gevolgen lijkt te hebben voor de morele praktijk. Als we preciezer kijken naar wat wetenschappers als Dawkins en Lamme nu ontkennen (wat zij bedoelen met 'de vrije wil') en dit vergelijken met ons spreken over de vrije wil in de morele praktijk, blijkt dat het nog maar helemaal de vraag is of het die gevolgen heeft. Wij betogen dat de legitimiteit van onze praktijk van verantwoordelijkheid vooral gelegen is in de maatschappelijke functie die het vervult in het op elkaar afstemmen van verwachtingen en handelingen. Ook wanneer het determinisme juist is, is er geen reden te denken dat onze verantwoordelijkheidspraktijk deze functie niet kan vervullen. Ons spreken over vrije wil komt heel natuurlijk voort uit die praktijk. Het gaat in dat spreken om reflectieve zelfcontrole, niet om het vermogen ons aan ons brein en de invloeden die erop werken te onttrekken.
- Paper that explains how dualistic presuppositions in neuroscientific criticisms of free will and personal responsibility get in the way of a proper understanding of the relevance of neuroscience to legal responsibility.
- Paper together with Maureen Sie discussing how Darwin's move away from teleology provides clues to understand the relation between our every day reason talk and causal explanations of our behavior in the behavioral, cognitive and neurosciences.
- Paper on "Natural selection, self-maintenance and entitlement to respect"
- Wouters, Arno G. (1999) Explanation Without A Cause. Ph.D. thesis, Utrecht University.
- Wouters, Arno G. (1995) "Viability Explanation" Biology & Philosophy 10: 435-457.
This article deals with a type of functional explanation, viability explanation, that has been overlooked in recent philosophy of science. Viability explanations relate traits of organisms and their environments in terms of what an individual needs to survive and reproduce. I show that viability explanations are neither causal, nor historical and that, therefore, they should be accounted for as a distinct type of explanation.
- A. G. Wouters (2003) "Philosophers on Function" Acta Biotheoretica 51(3): 223 - 235.
An essay review of A. Ariew, R. Cummins and M. Perlman (Eds) (2002), Functions: New Essays in the Philosophy of Psychology and Biology
- A.G. Wouters (2003) "Four Notions of Biological Function" Studies in History and Philosophy of Biology and Biomedical Science 34(4): 633-668.
I argue that there are at least four different ways in which the term 'function' is used in connection with the study of living organisms, namely: (1) function as (mere) activity, (2) function as biological role, (3) function as biological advantage, and (4) function as selected effect. Notion (1) refers to what an item does by itself; (2) refers to the contribution of an item or activity to a complex activity or capacity of an organism; (3) refers to the value for the organism of an item having a certain character rather than another; (4) refers to the way in which a trait acquired and maintained its current share in the population. The recognition of a separate notion of function as biological advantage solves the problem of the indeterminate reference situation that has been raised against a counterfactual analysis of function, and emphasizes the importance of counterfactual comparison in the explanatory practice of organismal biology. This reveals a neglected problem in the philosophy of biology, namely to account for the insights provided by counterfactual comparison.
- Wouters, Arno G. "The Functional Perspective of Organismal Biology" in: T.A.C. Reydon and L. Hemerik (eds.), Current Themes in Theoretical Biology: A Dutch Perspective (Springer, Dordrecht, 2005), p. 33-69.
Following Mayr (1961) evolutionary biologists often maintain that the hallmark of biology is its evolutionary perspective. In this view, biologists distinguish themselves from other natural scientists by their emphasis on why-questions. Why-questions are legitimate in biology but not in other natural sciences because of the selective character of the process by means of which living objects acquire their characteristics. For that reason, why-questions should be answered in terms of natural selection. Functional biology is seen as a reductionist science that applies physics and chemistry to answer how-questions but lacks a biological point of view of its own. In this paper I dispute this image of functional biology. A close look at the kinds of issues studied in biology and at the way in which these issues are studied shows that functional biology employs a distinctive biological perspective that is not rooted in selection. This functional perspective is characterized by its concern with the requirements of the life-state and the way in which these are met.
- Wouters, Arno G. "The Function Debate in Philosophy" Acta Biotheoretica 53(2): 123-151.
This paper reviews the debate on the notion of biological function and on functional explanation as this takes place in philosophy. It describes the different perspectives, issues, intuitions, theories and arguments that have emerged. The author shows that the debate has been too heavily influenced by the concerns of a naturalistic philosophy of mind and argues that in order to improve our understanding of biology the attention should be shifted from the study of intuitions to the study of the actual practice of biological inquiry.
- Wouters, Arno G. "Functional explanation in biology" in: R. Festa, A. Aliseda, and J. Peijnenburg, Cognitive Structures in Scientific Inquiry: Essays In Debate With Theo Kuipers vol. 2 (Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities 84), p. 269-293, Rodopi, Amsterdam & Atlanta (Ga.), 2005.
This paper evaluates Kuipers's account of functional explanation in biology in view of an example of such an explanation taken from real biology. The example is the explanation of why electric fishes swim backwards (Lannoo & Lannoo 1993). Kuipers's account depicts the answer to a request for functional explanation as consisting only of statements that articulate a certain kind of consequences. It is argued that such an account fails to do justice to the main insight provided by the example explanation, namely the insight why backwards swimming is needed by fishes that locate their food by means of an electric radar. The paper sketches an improved account that does justice to this kind of insight. It is argued that this account is consistent with and complementary to Kuipers's insight that function attributions are established by means of a process of hypothetico-deductive reasoning guided by a heuristic principle.
- Wouters, Arno G. "Design Explanation: determining the constraints on what can be alive" Erkenntnis 67(1): 65-80 (2007). (The final draft is available from my website, the original publication is at www.springerlink.com).
This paper is concerned with reasonings that purport to explain why certain organisms have certain traits by showing that their actual design is better than contrasting designs. Biologists call such reasonings ‘functional explanations’. To avoid confusion with other uses of that phrase, I call them ‘design explanations’. This paper discusses the structure of design explanations and how they contribute to scientific understanding. Design explanations are contrastive and often compare real organisms to hypothetical organisms that cannot possibly exist. They are not causal but appeal to functional dependencies between an organism’s different traits. These explanations point out that because an organism has certain traits (e.g., it lives on land), it cannot be alive if the trait to be explained (e.g., having lungs) were replaced by a specified alternative (e.g., having gills). They can be understood from a mechanistic point of view as revealing the constraints on what mechanisms can be alive.
- Wouters, Arno G. "Explanation in biology", "Biological function" and "Functional explanation" to appear in: Werner Dubitzky, Olaf Wolkenhauer, Kwang-Hyun Cho, Hiroki Yokota (Eds.) Encyclopedia of Systems Biology (Springer, 2012).
- Wouters, Arno G. Biology's Functional Perspective: Roles, Advantages, and Organization. In: Kampourakis, Kostas (ed.) The Philosophy of Biology. A Companion for Educators (Springer, 2013).
For a more general public
- Wouters, Arno G. (1989) "Niet-causale, functionele samenhangen" (non-causal, functional interdependencies) in: Vandenakker et al. (eds.) Filosofiedag Utrecht 1989, Delft: Eburon, p. 249-251.
I discuss an example of a functional explanation in biology and argue that it centers around interdependencies of a non-causal nature (in Dutch).
- Wouters, Arno G. (2002) "Verklaren zonder oorzaken te geven" Algemeen Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Wijsbegeerte 94(3): 178-193.
This paper addresses the question what functional explanations in biology add to scientific knowledge. Most philosophers assume that functional explanations consist of a function attribution in answer to a why-question. The author shows, by means of an example taken from real biology (Beekman's (2000) explanation of the migratory behavior of the Tundra Swans), that this reconstruction leaves much out of sight of what is gained by a functional explanation. An improved reconstruction shows that such explanations deal with non-causal, synchronic interdependencies between the character of the behavior to be explained and the other characteristics of the organism and the environment in which it lives (in Dutch).
- Rick C. Looijen Holism and Reductionism in Biology and Ecology (2000)
- Algemeen Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Wijsbegeerte 94(4): 312-315 (2002).
- Paul S. Davies Norms of Nature (2001)
- Philosophy of Science 71(2): 220-220 (2004)
- Thomas A.C. Reydon Species as Units of Generalization in Biological Science (2005)
- Algemeen Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Wijsbegeerte 97(4): 311-313 (2005)
- Peter McLaughlin What Functions Explain (2001)
- Acta Biotheoretica 54: 55-59 (2006)
- Tim Lewens Organisms and Artifacts (2004)
- Manuscript (10 January 2007), to appear (?) in Philosophy of Science.
- Joris van Rossum On Sexual Reproduction as a New Critique of the Theory of Natural Selection (2012)
- Evolutie blog, 20 februari 2013
- Paper together with Fred Boogerd (Molecular Cell Physiology, VU A'dam) and Frank Bruggeman (Regulatory Networks Group, CWI & Netherlands Institute for Systems Biology) discussing the application of design explanation in cell biology.
- Paper explaining how different so-called 'teleological' notions of function in contemporary naturalism are from teleological views in pre-Darwinian biology.
- Wouters, Arno G. (1993) "Marx's Embryology of Society" Philosophy of the Social Sciences 23: 149-179.
This article presents a new interpretation of Marx's dialectical method. Marx conceived dialectics as a method for constructing a model of society. The way this model is developed is analogous to the way organisms develop according to the German embryologist Karl Ernst von Baer, and indeed, Marx's theory of capitalism hinges on the same concept of Organisation that is found in teleomechanical biology. The strong analogy between pre-Darwinian biology and Marx's structure of argument shows that the analogy often supposed to exist between Darwin and Marx is not relevant to Marx's theory of capitalism
Proceedings and research reports
- Wouters, Arno G. (1988) Embryologie van de samenleving (Embryology of Society). Masters Thesis, Department of Philosophy, Groningen University, The Netherlands.
A comparison of Marx's theory of capitalism and ideas about development and evolution in nineteenth century biology (in Dutch).
- Wouters, Arno G. (1992) "Wat is de inzet van het realisme debat?" (what is the debate about realism really about?). In: Ronald Commers (ed.), Acta filosofiedag 1990, Delft: Eburon.
I argue that the point of the realism / instrumentalism discussion is not whether certain theories are approximately true or not, but what kind of arguments would establish the existence of a postulated kind of entities (in Dutch).
- Wouters, Arno G. (2005) ELSA onderzoek in Nederland (ELSA research in the Netherlands). Centre for Society and Genomics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
An inventory and analysis of research into the ethical, legal, and social aspects of genomics in The Netherlands, carried out under the authority of the NWO programme "De Maatschappelijke Component van het Genomics-onderzoek (MCG)" (the social component of genomics research). The inventory consists of 133 projects, a third of which are financed by MCG. A wide range of approaches was identified, reaching from implementation studies to reflective studies and from apologetic to critical. The MCG programme aims to stimulate research that focusses on the new themes genomics brings along and that experiments with new approaches in ethical and social studies. The study shows that this innovation is taking place only slowly. In the health domain there is still (too) little attention for multifactorial diseases and behavioral genomics and the economic aspects of developments in industrial genomics are hardly studied. However, the new themes gradually get more attention and the MCG programme has a prominent role in this change. The report recommends more feedback from research at the micro level - such as case studies and patients studies - to the macro level - such as the policy dimension and the wider social and economic issues (in Dutch).
Short book reviews
- G.D.J. Dingemans en P.G. Smelik Deze Wereld en God: Modern wereldbeeld en christelijk geloof (2005)
- Tijdschrift voor Theologie 45(3): 320
Proceedings and research reports
- J.F. Groote, J. Pang, A.G. Wouters Analysis of a distributed system for lifting trucks. CWI Research Report SEN-R011; CWI, The Netherlands; May 2001.
- J.F. Groote, J. Pang, A.G. Wouters "A Balancing Act: Analyzing a Distributed Lift System" Proceeding of 6th International Workshop on Formal Methods for Industrial Critical Systems, pp. 1-12, Paris, France, 16-17 July 2001.
- A.G. Wouters (2001) Manual for the µCRL tool set (version 2.8.2). CWI Research Report SEN-R0130; CWI, The Netherlands, 2001.
This page was made by Arno Wouters.
Last Updated: 19 Nov 2013.