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Nature

This category contains 95 posts

Escapology 101

Biologists and animal behaviourists refer to their study of escape responses as escapology. Fish, cockroaches and higher animals move at speed in a direction away from an immediate threat from a predator, but not always, and not directly. The direction of the escape travel depends on the lay of the land, the position of likely … Continue reading

The lion and the jackal

Jackals are omnivores. They eat plants and hunt small prey. Jackals normally forage and hunt singly or in pairs, but will form larger alliances to scavenge a carcass. By stealth, they will steal from a lion. A lion, three jackals and a dead warthog A female lion catches a warthog in the early morning. Warthogs … Continue reading

Wild signs (Africa edition)

As anyone who walks, treks, or rambles in the countryside knows, nature is replete with messages. Animals deposit and pick up trails and traces. They communicate within and across groups, populations, species and families. They broadcast, narrowcast, and live stream messages to friends, rivals, predators and prey, deliberately, inadvertently, or even falsely. Not all channels … Continue reading

On being a detective

As evidence of crimes and misdemeanours mount and circulate around the US president and his entourage, attention turns to matters of fact. Fact-checking is a major media sub-industry. See factcheck.org, politifact.com, and fullfact.org. It’s also an exercise in semiotic indexicality. I’m investigating how C.S. Peirce’s theories about signs relate to his theory of abduction, i.e. … Continue reading

Whatever happened to reality?

I’m reading After Finitude by Quentin Meillassoux, with a view to bringing the thinking of the pragmatic philosopher C.S. Peirce (1839-1914) up to date — or at least, this is an opportunity to compare and contrast Peirce’s pragmatic realism with some thinking now about reality (100 years later). Meillassoux’s contention is that the so-called linguistic … Continue reading

What post humanists want

I’m glad there are philosophers who wrestle with what there actually is in the world — for real. So the rest of us can deal with practical matters. That’s a glib summation of how I contrast C.S. Peirce’s pragmatism with adventures in contemporary ontology. The task for one such ontologist, Graham Harman, is to give … Continue reading

Index fever

In writing about the post-digital condition, media commentator Florian Cramer identified a “semiotic shift to the indexical”(22) and away from symbols. The indexical relationship is a direct connection between an object and its sign, as if the sign is caused by its object (as smoke or soot are caused by fire). According to C.S. Peirce, … Continue reading

Calculating belief

In previous posts I referenced C.S. Peirce’s (1839-1914) concept of abduction, or evidential reasoning, i.e. establishing the support a particular proposition (hypothesis) has from evidence. The theories of the Presbyterian minister/statistician Thomas Bayes (1702-1761) has relevance here. Peirce knew of Bayes’s work on probability though he didn’t support Bayes’s approach to mathematical reasoning. Never-the-less, Bayesian … Continue reading

Climate change and doubt

Who could doubt, in the face of evidence from climate science, “that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century” (10)! That’s from the recent report by the US-based Global Change Research Program. The report maintains that from the … Continue reading

The sarcophagus at the end of the Anthropocene

The recent ransomware attack hit some of the monitoring systems at the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant. (See Guardian article.) The malware locks the data on your computer and you have to pay $300 in bitcoin to a specified account in order to receive the code that unlocks your computer. As it happens, the malware … Continue reading

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