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81. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 2
Luca Barlassina, Max Khan Hayward Orcid-ID

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Affective experiences such as pains, pleasures, and emotions have affective phenomenology: they feel (un)pleasant. This type of phenomenology has a loopy regulatory profile: it often motivates us to act a certain way, and these actions typically end up regulating our affective experiences back. For example, the pleasure you get by tasting your morning coffee motivates you to drink more of it, and this in turn results in you obtaining another pleasant gustatory experience. In this article, we argue that reflexive imperativism is the only intentionalist account of affective phenomenology—probably, the only account at all—that is able to make sense of its loopy regulatory profile.

82. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
William Bausman Orcid-ID

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Neutral Theory is controversial in ecology. Ecologists and philosophers have diagnosed the source of the controversy as: its false assumption that individuals in different species within the same trophic level are ecologically equivalent, its conflict with Competition Theory and the adaptation of species, its role as a null hypothesis, and as a Lakatosian research programme. In this paper, I show why we should instead understand the conflict at the level of research programs which involve more than theory. The Neutralist and Competitionist research programs borrow and construct theories, models, and experiments for various aims and given their home ecological systems. I present a holistic and pragmatic view of the controversy that foregrounds the interrelation between many kinds of practices and decisions in ecological research.

83. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Gregory J. Cooper, Lawrence E. Hurd

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The concept of population is central to ecology, yet it has received little attention from philosophers of ecology. Furthermore, the work that has been done often recycles ideas that have been developed for evolutionary biology. We argue that ecological populations and evolutionary populations, though intimately related, are distinct, and that the distinction matters to practicing ecologists. We offer a definition of ecological population in terms of demographic independence, where changes in abundance are a function of birth and death processes alone. However, demographic independence (DI) is insufficient on its own so we supplement it with the idea of shared habitat. An ecological population is a group of organisms of the same species in a habitat that manifests DI. Given the importance of metapopulation dynamics to modern ecology, an account of ecological population must apply to this domain as well. Thus, we extend our definition of ecological population to the metapopulation. To facilitate the extension, we introduce the metahabitat—a collection of spatially segregated habitat patches shared by a single DI population. This enables us to (1) diagnose some unhelpful trends in the metapopulation literature and (2) emphasize the importance of habitat dynamics in pursuit of the goals of theoretical ecology and conservation biology.

84. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Eric Desjardins

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Researchers studying linked Social-Ecological Systems (SESs) often use the notion of coevolution in describing the relation between humans and the rest of nature. However, most descriptions of the concept of socio-ecological coevolution remain elusive and poorly articulated. The objective of the following paper is to further specify and enrich the meaning of “coevolution” in social-ecological studies. After a critical analysis of two accounts of coevolution in ecological economics, the paper uses the frameworks of Niche Construction Theory and the Geographic Mosaic Theory to define social-ecological coevolution as the reciprocal adaptation of human-social and ecological ensembles through human and ecological niche construction activities. In sum, this conceptual analysis suggests that an ecologization of Darwinian coevolution can bring clarity to profound functional integration that takes place between humans and ecological systems, and at the same time opens fruitful avenues for social-ecological research.

85. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Alkistis Elliott-Graves

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Prediction is an important aspect of scientific practice, because it helps us to confirm theories and effectively intervene on the systems we are investigating. In ecology, prediction is a controversial topic: even though the number of papers focusing on prediction is constantly increasing, many ecologists believe that the quality of ecological predictions is unacceptably low, in the sense that they are not sufficiently accurate sufficiently often. Moreover, ecologists disagree on how predictions can be improved. On one side are the ‘theory-driven’ ecologists, those who believe that ecology lacks a sufficiently strong theoretical framework. For them, more general theories will yield more accurate predictions. On the other are the ‘applied’ ecologists, whose research is focused on effective interventions on ecological systems. For them, deeper knowledge of the system in question is more important than background theory. The aim of this paper is to provide a philosophical examination of both sides of the debate: as there are strengths and weaknesses in both approaches to prediction, a pluralistic approach is best for the future of predictive ecology.

86. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Jeremy W. Fox

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The variety of nature presents a challenge for ecologists. Individual organisms differ from one another in ways both obvious and subtle, even if they’re members of the same species living in the same location. Different populations, species, communities, ecosystems, biomes, habitats, food webs, etc. also differ from another. What, if anything, can be said in general about ecological systems and how they work? If there are generalities in ecology, do they take the form of exceptionless “laws of nature” analogous to the laws of physics? Or do they take some other form? Should ecologists even try to identify ecological generalities? If so, how? The variety of nature is matched by the variety of ecologists’ answers to those questions. I will suggest that all of their answers are right—sometimes. Here I propose a taxonomy of the many different “roads to generality” in ecology: the various different kinds of “generality” that ecologists seek. I argue that each road to generality is valuable in its own way, but that different roads are useful in different contexts and for different purposes. Different roads to generality thus can be complementary to one another, and it would be a mistake for the field of ecology as a whole to focus exclusively on any one of them.

87. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
James Justus

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Perhaps no concept has been thought more important to ecological theorizing than the niche. Without it, technically sophisticated and well-regarded accounts of character displacement, ecological equivalence, limiting similarity, and others would seemingly never have been developed. The niche is also widely considered the centerpiece of the best candidate for a distinctively ecological law, the competitive exclusion principle. But the incongruous array and imprecise character of proposed definitions of the concept square poorly with its apparent scientific centrality. I argue this definitional diversity and imprecision reflects a problematic conceptual indeterminacy that challenges its putative indispensability in ecology.

88. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Christopher Hunter Lean

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The question of whether there are laws of nature in ecology has developed substantially in the last 20 years. Many have attempted to rehabilitate ecology’s lawlike status through establishing that ecology possesses laws that robustly appear across many different ecological systems. I argue that there is still something missing, which explains why so many have been skeptical of ecology’s lawlike status. Community ecology has struggled to establish what I call a General Unificatory Theory (GUT). The lack of a GUT causes problems for explanation as there are no guidelines for how to integrate the lower-level mathematical and causal models into a larger theory of how ecological assemblages are formed. I turn to a promising modern attempt to provide a unified higher-level explanation in ecology, presented by ecologist Mark Vellend, and advocate for philosophical engagement with its prospects for aiding ecological explanation.

89. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Stefan Linquist

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Recent examples of rapid evolution under natural selection seem to require that the disciplines of ecology and evolution become better integrated. This inference makes sense only if one’s understanding of these disciplines is based on Hutchinson’s two-speed model of the ecological theater and the evolutionary play. Instead, these disciplines are more accurately viewed as occupying distinct “epistemic niches.” When so understood, we see that rapid evolution under selection, even if it is generally true, does not imply that evolutionary explanations are improved by the inclusion of ecological details. Nor are ecological explanations necessarily improved by the inclusion of information about trait variation, heritability, effective population size, or other standard evolutionary factors. To illustrate, I develop a version of Kitcher’s (1984) “gory details” argument to show that, even for some trait that is under strong directional selection, a dynamically sufficient explanation of its ecological relationships should ignore most of the information explaining why that trait is evolving. The wholesale integration of ecology and evolution looks even less appealing when empirical sufficiency, a purely practical requirement, is taken into account. As a way forward, I propose an eco-evo partitioning framework. This strategy enables researchers to estimate the empirical sufficiency of a purely ecological, a purely evolutionary, or a combined eco-evo approach.

90. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Jay Odenbaugh

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In this essay, I argue that the selected effects approach to ecosystem functions is inadequate and defend the adequacy of the systemic capacity account. I additionally argue that rival persistence enhancing and organizational approaches face serious problems when applied to ecosystem ecology. Lastly, I explore how the systemic capacity approach applies to recent experimental work on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.

91. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Diane E. Pataki

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Sagoff (2017) critiqued the exclusion of cultivated plants and animals from much of the body of work in ecology. However, there is a history of attempting to incorporate cultivated landscapes in ecology that goes back at least two decades, particularly in urban ecology. The subdiscipline of urban ecology has received relatively little attention in philosophy, although some of its methodologies, such as coupled human-natural systems research, have been critiqued. Here I will attempt to explicitly address the conceptual limitations in ecology for studying cultivated ecosystems and evaluate these limitations in the context of coupled human-natural systems and socioecological research, urban ecosystem services frameworks, and actor-network theory. I argue that the history of cultivated organisms is highly germane to their ecology, necessitating the incorporation of human agency into ecological theory. However, human agency and nonhuman nature exist along a continuum of nature vs. culture. As a result, dualistic approaches to studying the role of human agency in ecosystem processes, such as socioecology and ecosystem services assessments—which explicitly separate humans from nature—have had limited success in cultivated landscapes. More fully integrated frameworks such as actor-network theory may better address ecological research questions in cultivated landscapes.

92. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Carolyn A. Trombley, Karl Cottenie

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Fundamental terms in the field of ecology are ambiguous, with multiple meanings associated with them. While this could lead to confusion, discord, or even tests that violate core assumptions of a given theory or model, this ambiguity could also be a feature that allows for new knowledge creation through the interconnected nature of concepts. We approached this debate from a quantitative perspective, and investigated the cost of ambiguity related to definitions of ecological units in ecology related to the general term “community.” We did a meta-analysis of tests associated with two bodies of literature, Hubbell’s unified neutral theory of biodiversity and biogeography and Diamond’s assembly rules, that rely on a specific ecological unit that assumes that species are existing within a local area and that they have overlapping resource needs. We predicted that if ambiguous terminology is widespread, then researchers will have tested them with many different ecological units, that in addition some of these ecological units will violate the core assumptions of the theory, and finally that the overall level of support for a theory will be stronger if appropriate ecological units were used. We found that indeed multiple different ecological units were used in the literature to test both theories, with 65 percent appropriate ecological units for neutral theory tests, and only 6 percent for assembly rule tests. Finally, there was some evidence that the support for a theory depended on whether appropriate ecological units were used for neutral tests, but there was not enough data for the assembly rule tests. These results thus show that ambiguous terminology in ecology is having measurable effects on research and is not of solely philosophical concern. We advocate that authors be explicit in their writing and outline core assumptions of theories, that researchers apply these consistently in their tests, and that readers be attentive to what is written and cognizant of their potential biases.

93. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Mark Vellend

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Values have a profound influence on the behaviour of all people, scientists included. Biodiversity is studied by ecologists, like myself, most of whom align with the “mission-driven” field of conservation biology. The mission involves the protection of biodiversity, and a set of contextual values including the beliefs that biological diversity and ecological complexity are good and have intrinsic value. This raises concerns that the scientific process might be influenced by biases toward outcomes that are aligned with these values. Retrospectively, I have identified such biases in my own work, resulting from an implicit assumption that organisms that are not dependent on natural habitats (e.g., forests) effectively do not count in biodiversity surveys. Finding that anthropogenic forest disturbance reduces the diversity of plant species dependent on shady forests can thus be falsely equated with more general biodiversity loss. Disturbance might actually increase overall plant diversity (i.e., including all of the species found growing in a particular place). In this paper I ask whether ecologists share values that are unrepresentative of broader society, I discuss examples of potential value-driven biases in biodiversity science, and I present some hypotheses from behavioral economics on possible psychological underpinnings of shared values and preferences among ecologists.

94. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
John Corvino

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In June 2018 the Supreme Court of the United States decided the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop, in which baker Jack Phillips refused to provide a cake for a same-sex wedding. The Court decided the case on fairly narrow grounds; in particular, it set aside the question of whether Phillips illegally discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation by refusing to sell the same cake to a gay couple that he would sell to a heterosexual couple. Concurring opinions by Justices Kagan and Gorsuch do address that question, however, and in this paper I explore the debate between them. By distinguishing between design-based and use-based refusals of service and then arguing that some use-based refusals are tantamount to discrimination on the basis of protected traits, I argue that Jack Phillips did indeed discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. I also argue that another baker, who refused to create a “Leviticus 18:22 ‘Homosexuality is a detestable sin’ ” cake, did not discriminate on the basis of religion. I thus side with Justice Kagan against Justice Gorsuch on the question of whether the Colorado commission treated the two bakers inconsistently.

95. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
Robin Dembroff

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Gender classifications often are controversial. These controversies typically focus on whether gender classifications align with facts about gender kind membership: Could someone really be nonbinary? Is Chris Mosier (a trans man) really a man? I think this is a bad approach. Consider the possibility of ontological oppression, which arises when social kinds operating in a context unjustly constrain the behaviors, concepts, or affect of certain groups. Gender kinds operating in dominant contexts, I argue, oppress trans and nonbinary persons in this way: they marginalize trans men and women, and exclude nonbinary persons. As a result, facts about membership in dominant gender kinds should not settle gender classification practices.

96. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
Kristie Dotson, Ayanna De’ Vante Spencer

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This paper is an effort toward conceptual transparency around toxic inclusivity in academic feminism and the kinds of care it lacks toward, what amounts to, bad knowledge production practices. In this paper, we claim that some of the forms of reductive inclusion that ought to be avoided are epistemologically unsound practices that propagate disempowering, false, and/or distortive messages about targets of inclusion. We take reductive inclusion to be inclusion that treats the targets of inclusion as plot devices and/or as means to a narrative end. These practices should be avoided in order to work toward a range of coalitional possibilities between differently situated populations with social justice aims. Moreover, we are concerned with making clear that toxic inclusion is a type of bad scholarship. The reductive inclusions to avoid articulated in this paper are (1) interpolation and (2) ossification. Interpolation involves executing “inclusion” with formal, instead of substantive, overtures. Ossification, however, establishes parasitic relations of inclusion that present a skeleton of one’s targets for inclusion that reduces whole groups to serve the purpose of the narrator. Through a discussion of Audre Lorde’s “An Open Letter to Mary Daly” (1979), we explain Lorde’s brilliant and succinct critique of Daly as exemplifying interpolation and ossification. Ultimately, this paper adds to diverse Black feminist literatures on effective coalitions and gestures toward potential rules for engagement across difference in our story telling.

97. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
Jules Holroyd, Jennifer Saul

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This paper takes as its focus efforts to address particular aspects of sexist oppression and its intersections, in a particular field: it discusses reform efforts in philosophy. In recent years, there has been a growing international movement to change the way that our profession functions and is structured, in order to make it more welcoming for members of marginalized groups. One especially prominent and successful form of justification for these reform efforts has drawn on empirical data regarding implicit biases and their effects. Here, we address two concerns about these empirical data. First, critics have for some time argued that the studies drawn upon cannot give us an accurate picture of the workings of prejudice, because they ignore the intersectional nature of these phenomena. More recently, concerns have been raised about the empirical data supporting the nature and existence of implicit bias. Each of these concerns, but perhaps more commonly the latter, are thought by some to undermine reform efforts in philosophy. In this paper, we take a three-pronged approach to these claims. First, we show that the reforms can be motivated quite independently of the implicit bias data, and that many of these reforms are in fact very well suited to dealing with intersectional worries. Next, we show that in fact the empirical concerns about the implicit bias data are not nearly as problematic as some have thought. Finally, we argue that while the intersectional concerns are an immensely valuable criticism of early work on implicit bias, more recent work is starting to address these worries.

98. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
Veronica Ivy, Aryn Conrad

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In this paper, we examine the scientific, legal, and ethical foundations for inclusion of transgender women athletes in competitive sport, drawing on IOC principles and relevant Court of Arbitration for Sport decisions. We argue that the inclusion of trans athletes in competition commensurate with their legal gender is the most consistent position with these principles of fair and equitable sport. Biological restrictions, such as endogenous testosterone limits, are not consistent with IOC and CAS principles. We explore the implications for recognizing that endogenous testosterone values are a ‘natural physical trait’ and that excluding legally recognized women for high endogenous testosterone values constitutes discrimination on the basis of a natural physical trait. We suggest that the justificatory burden for such prima facie discrimination is unlikely to be met. Thus, in place of a limit on endogenous testosterone for women (whether cisgender, transgender, or intersex), we argue that ‘legally recognized gender’ is most fully in line with IOC and CAS principles.

99. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
Serene Khader

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In a world where paid work is touted as a development panacea, empowering women has started to look a lot like burdening them. I argue here that this burdening of women is a predictable result of the conception of empowerment as choice or agency. Dominant conceptions of empowerment characterize empowerment as the increase in a person’s ability to do what they choose. Yet conditions of gender equality and poverty structure women’s options such that choosing (among unacceptable alternatives), doing (too much), and doing more (than men) are often both women’s best option and modes of disempowerment. Seeing the way increased agency can be disempowering requires shifting away from the view that social structures disempower by constraining individual agency. We instead need a conception of power as a constraint on individual action to a conception of power as structuring the field of available actions in ways that affect the relative position of social groups. Through a discussion of the gender division of labor and the feminization of responsibility, I argue that a more feminist conception of empowerment will weaken the link between empowerment and individual agency.

100. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
Mary Kate McGowan

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This paper argues that linguistic oppression is coherent; speech can oppress. Moreover, even though oppression is a structural phenomenon, a single utterance can nevertheless be an act of oppression. This paper also argues that ordinary utterances can oppress. That is, speakers do not need to have and be exercising authority in order for their speech to be oppressive. Furthermore, ordinary speech can oppress even though the speakers do not intend to oppress, even though the hearers do not take it to oppress, even though the oppressed do not hear it, and even though the oppressed are unaware of being oppressed. On the account offered here, linguistic oppression is sneaky, hidden, and surprisingly widespread.