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41. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 2
Celine Leboeuf What Is Body Positivity?: The Path from Shame to Pride
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“Body positivity” refers to the movement to accept our bodies, regardless of size, shape, skin tone, gender, and physical abilities. The movement is often implicitly understood as the effort to celebrate diversity in bodily aesthetics and to expand our narrow beauty standards beyond their present-day confines. Like other feminists, I question whether the push to broaden beauty norms should occupy as central a role as it does now in the movement’s mainstream incarnations, and I believe that, beyond challenging confining beauty standards, body positivity should teach us that all bodies are worthy—for example, of care and respect. My aim in this paper is to offer a general account of body positivity. I argue that body positivity should be understood as the transition from limiting body shame to proper body pride. I adopt a pluralistic approach to body positivity, incorporating the idea that we should not only expand aesthetic standards, but also celebrate such aspects of embodiment as our capacity for bodily pleasure or our bodily abilities. What is common to these different ways of developing empowering relations to our bodies is the move to resist all forms of body shame that limit our flourishing and to cultivate proper pride in one’s body. I conclude by considering several avenues toward embodying such pride and, thus, embracing body positivity: expanding beauty ideals; promoting equal access to physical activities and celebrating the accomplishments of all athletes, regardless of body size or level of ability; and consciousness-raising.
42. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 2
James Sias The Self as a Reason to Regulate: Dispositional Emotion Regulation and Shaftesbury on Integrity of Mind
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Notably absent from much of the psychological literature on emotion regulation are attempts to answer explicitly normative questions about the phenomenon. It is one thing to explain how emotional states are regulated. It is another thing to say something about what reasons there are to regulate our emotions, whether and why we might sometimes be obligated to regulate our emotions, and how we regulate our emotions well, or optimally. This paper is an attempt at the latter task, focused specifically on a type of emotion regulation also receiving little attention in the literature—what I call dispositional emotion regulation. Dispositional regulation occurs, when it does, at some point or period of time significantly prior to the onset of affected emotional states or episodes, and by means of modifying the subject’s emotional dispositions. And it is done well, or optimally, I argue, when it is done with an aim toward achieving and maintaining a coherent and comprehensible self, in the sense Shaftesbury had in mind.
43. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 2
Heidi L. Maibom Empathy and Emotion Regulation
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In this paper, I evaluate one of the most prominent accounts of how emotion regulation features in empathy. According to this account, by Nancy Eisenberg and colleagues, empathy develops into either personal distress or sympathy depending on the ability to regulate one’s empathic distress. I argue that recent evidence suggests (1) that empathic distress and sympathy co-occur throughout the empathic episode, (2) that a certain degree of empathic distress may be necessary for prosocial motivation, as high emotion regulation leads to loss of this motivation, and (3) that emotion regulation is not an unmitigated good since much of it is achieved by dehumanizing the sufferer or minimizing her pain. A fertile ground for further research, I suggest, is the role of up-regulation of sympathy.
44. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 2
Monique Wonderly On the Affect of Security
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In the contemporary philosophical literature, the topic of security has been largely neglected, and this is especially true of the affect of security. In what follows, I aim to nudge the affect of security toward the philosophical foreground by offering a basic analysis of (one sense of ) this attitude. Specifically, I sketch an account on which the affect of security is helpfully construed as a feeling of confidence in one’s ability to competently and effectively exercise one’s agency. Security, so construed, is an affective attitude toward one’s agency that both admits of affect regulation and plays a crucial meta-affective regulatory role in facilitating and modulating other affective dispositions and occurrent emotions. Examining this attitude can help to illuminate both the phenomenology and motivational structure of agency and the nature of certain emotions.
45. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 2
Ryan Cox Only Reflect
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While it is widely held that normative reflection is an effective means of controlling our emotions, it has proven to be notoriously difficult to provide a plausible model of such control. How could reflection on the normative status of our emotions be a means of controlling them? Higher-order models of reflective control give a special role to higher-order beliefs and judgments about the normative status of our emotions in controlling our emotions, but in doing so claim that higher-order beliefs and judgments have more control over our emotional lives than they in fact have, and fail to explain some of the central features of reflective control. First-order models of reflective control give a special role to first-order evaluative beliefs and perceptions about the objects of our emotions in controlling our emotions, but in doing so fail to explain how normative reflection could be a distinctive means of controlling our emotions at all. In this essay, I defend a model of reflective control which avoids the twin pitfalls of the higher-order and first-order models of reflective control, while learning from them both. I defend a model according to which normative reflection is a means of bringing our emotions under the control of reflective reason, where an emotion’s being under the control of reflective reason is to be understood in terms of its being under the control of one’s first-order evaluative beliefs and perceptions in accordance with one’s reflective commitments.
46. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 2
Joel Krueger, Lucy Osler Engineering Affect: Emotion Regulation, the Internet, and the Techno-Social Niche
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Philosophical work exploring the relation between cognition and the Internet is now an active area of research. Some adopt an externalist framework, arguing that the Internet should be seen as environmental scaffolding that drives and shapes cognition. However, despite growing interest in this topic, little attention has been paid to how the Internet influences our affective life—our moods, our emotions, and our ability to regulate these and other feeling states. We argue that the Internet scaffolds not only cognition but also affect. Using various case studies, we consider some ways that we are increasingly dependent on our Internet-enabled “techno-social niches” to regulate the contours of our own affective life and participate in the affective lives of others. We argue further that, unlike many of the other environmental resources we use to regulate affect, the Internet has distinct properties that introduce new dimensions of complexity to these regulative processes. First, it is radically social in a way many of these other resources are not. Second, it is a radically distributed and decentralized resource; no one individual or agent is responsible for the Internet’s content or its affective impact on users. Accordingly, while the Internet can profoundly augment and enrich our affective life and deepen our connection with others, there is also a distinctive kind of affective precarity built into our online endeavors as well.
47. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 2
Luca Barlassina, Max Khan Hayward Loopy Regulations: The Motivational Profile of Affective Phenomenology
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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.
48. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
William Bausman The Aims and Structures of Ecological Research Programs
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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.
49. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Gregory J. Cooper, Lawrence E. Hurd The House and the Household: Habitat, Demographic Independence, and Ecological Populations
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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.
50. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Eric Desjardins On the Meaning of “Coevolution” in Social-Ecological Studies: An Eco-Darwinian Perspective
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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.
51. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Alkistis Elliott-Graves The Future of Predictive Ecology
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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.
52. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Jeremy W. Fox The Many Roads to Generality in Ecology
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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.
53. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
James Justus Ecological Theory and the Superfluous Niche
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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.
54. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Christopher Hunter Lean General Unificatory Theories in Community Ecology
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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.
55. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Stefan Linquist Why Ecology and Evolution Occupy Distinct Epistemic Niches
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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.
56. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Jay Odenbaugh Functions in Ecosystem Ecology: A Defense of the Systemic Capacity Account
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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.
57. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Diane E. Pataki On the Definition of Cultivated Ecology
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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.
58. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Carolyn A. Trombley, Karl Cottenie Quantifying the Scientific Cost of Ambiguous Terminology in Community Ecology
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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.
59. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Mark Vellend The Behavioral Economics of Biodiversity Conservation Scientists
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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.
60. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
John Corvino “The Kind of Cake, Not the Kind of Customer”: Masterpiece, Sexual-Orientation Discrimination, and the Metaphysics of Cakes
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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.