Publications of Kronfeldner, Maria

What's left of human nature? A post-essentialist, pluralist and interactive account of a contested concept

Human nature has always been a foundational issue for philosophy. What does it mean to have a human nature? Is the concept the relic of a bygone age? What is the use of such a concept? What are the epistemic and ontological commitments people make when they use the concept? In What’s Left of Human Nature? Maria Kronfeldner offers a philosophical account of human nature that defends the concept against contemporary criticism. In particular, she takes on challenges related to social misuse of the concept that dehumanizes those regarded as lacking human nature (the dehumanization challenge); the conflict between Darwinian thinking and essentialist concepts of human nature (the Darwinian challenge); and the consensus that evolution, heredity, and ontogenetic development results from nurture and nature. After answering each of these challenges, Kronfeldner presents a revisionist account of human nature that minimizes dehumanization and does not fall back on outdated biological ideas. Her account is post-essentialist because it eliminates the concept of an essence of being human; pluralist in that it argues that there are different things in the world that correspond to three different post-essentialist concepts of human nature; and interactive because it understands nature and nurture as interacting at the developmental, epigenetic, and evolutionary levels. On the basis of this, she introduces a dialectical concept of an ever-changing and “looping” human nature. Finally, noting the essentially contested character of the concept and the ambiguity and redundancy of the terminology, she wonders if we should simply eliminate the term “human nature” altogether.

Divide and conquer: The authority of nature and why we disagree about human nature

The term ‘human nature’ can refer to different things in the world and fulfil different epistemic roles. Human nature can refer to a classificatory nature (classificatory criteria that determine the boundaries of, and membership in, a biological or social group called ‘human’), a descriptive nature (a bundle of properties describing the respective group’s life form), or an explanatory nature (a set of factors explaining that life form). This chapter will first introduce these three kinds of ‘human nature’, together with seven reasons why we disagree about human nature. In the main, this chapter focuses on the explanatory concept of human nature, which is related to one of the seven reasons for disagreement, namely, the scientific authority inherent in the term ‘nature’. I will examine why, in a number of historical contexts, it was attractive to refer to ‘nature’ as an explanatory category, and why this usage has led to the continual contestation of the term within the sciences. The claim is that even if the contents of talk about ‘nature’ varied historically, the term’s pragmatic function of demarcation stayed the same. The term ‘nature’ conveys scientific authority over a territory; ‘human nature’ is a concept used to divide causes, as well as experts, and thereby conquer others who threaten to invade one’s epistemic territory. Analysing this demarcation, which has social as well as epistemic aspects, will help us to understand why the explanatory role has been important and why it is unlikely that people will ever agree on either the meaning or the importance of ‘human nature’ as an explanatory category.

Kronfeldner M. Explaining Creativity. In: Gaut B, Kieran M, editors. Routledge Handbook on Creativity and Philosophy . New York: Routledge; 2018. p. 213-29.

Explaining Creativity

Creativity has often been declared, especially by philosophers, as the last frontier of science. The assumption is that it will defy explanation forever. I will defend two claims in order to oppose this assumption and to demystify creativity: (1) the perspective that creativity cannot be explained wrongly identifies creativity with what I shall call metaphysical freedom; (2) the Darwinian approach to creativity, a prominent naturalistic account of creativity, fails to give an explanation of creativity, because it confuses conceptual issues with explanation. I will close with some remarks on the status and differences in some explanations available in contemporary cognitive science.

Was sollen Philosoph/innen tun? Kommentar zur Podiumsdiskussion „Bedrohtes Denken“ (DGPhil Kongress 2017)

Wie können Philosoph/innen mit der Bedrohung der akademischen Freiheit umgehen, die von rechtspopulistischen Strömungen (in Deutschland, Europa und weltweit) und autoritären Staaten (wie der Türkei und Ungarn) ausgeht? – Diese Frage stand im Zentrum der Podiumsdiskussion „Bedrohtes Denken“, die während des DGPhil Kongresses in Berlin am Tag der Bundestagswahl 2017 stattfand. Es war eine Diskussion, deren Ende von der bedrückenden Nachricht überschattet wurde, die rechtsextreme AfD werde drittstärkste Kraft im neuen Bundestag. Angesichts dieses zutiefst beunruhigenden Wahlergebnisses glauben wir, dass es wichtig ist, diese Diskussion weiterzuführen. Dieser Kommentar soll dazu einen Anstoß geben.

The right to ignore: An epistemic defense of the nature/culture divide

This paper addresses whether the often-bemoaned loss of unity of knowledge about humans, which results from the disciplinary fragmentation of science, is something to be overcome. The fragmentation of being human rests on a couple of distinctions, such as the nature-culture divide. Since antiquity the distinction between nature (roughly, what we inherit biologically) and culture (roughly, what is acquired by social interaction) has been a commonplace in science and society. Recently, the nature/culture divide has come under attack in various ways, in philosophy as well as in cultural anthropology. Regarding the latter, for instance, the divide was quintessential in its beginnings as an academic dis-cipline, when Alfred L. Kroeber, one of the first professional anthropologists in the US, rallied for (what I call) the right to ignore—in his case, human nature—by adopting a separationist epistemic stance. A separationist stance will be under-stood as an epistemic research heuristic that defends the right to ignore a specif-ic phenomenon (e.g., human nature) or a specific causal factor in an explanation typical for a disciplinary field. I will use Kroeber’s case as an example for mak-ing a general point against a bias towards integration (synthesis bias, as I call it) that is exemplified, for instance, by defenders of evolutionary psychology. I will claim that, in principle, a separationist stance is as good as an integrationist stance since both can be equally fruitful. With this argument from fruitful sepa-ration in place, not just the separationist stance but also the nature/culture di-vide can be defended against its critics.

Kronfeldner M. The politics of human nature. In: Tibayrenc M, Ayala FJ, editors. On human nature: Evolution, diversity, psychology, ethics, politics and religion. San Diego: Academic Press; 2016. p. 625-32.

The politics of human nature

Human nature is a concept that transgresses the boundary between science and society and between fact and value. It is as much a political concept as it is a scientific one. This chapter will cover the politics of human nature by using evidence from history, anthropology and social psychology. The aim is to show that an important political function of the vernacular concept of human nature is social demarcation (inclusion/exclusion): it is involved in regulating who is ‘us’ and who is ‘them.’ It is a folk concept that is used for dehumanization, for denying (a) membership in humankind or (b) full humanness to certain people in order to include or exclude them from various forms of politically relevant aspects of human life, such as rights, power, etc.

Problems and Prospects of Interdisciplinarity: The Case of Philosophy of Science (revised and enlarged version of 2015-version in Briefe zur Interdisziplinarität)

In this paper, we discuss some problems and prospects of interdisciplinary encounters by focusing on philosophy of science as a case study. After introducing the case, we give an overview about the various ways in which philosophy of science can be interdisciplinary in Section 2. In Section 3, we name some general problems concerning the possible points of interaction between philosophy of science and the sciences studied. In Section 4 we compare the advantages and risks of interdisciplinarity for individual researchers and institutions. In Section 5, we discuss interdisciplinary PhD programs, in particular concerning two main problems: increased workload and the quality of supervision. In the final Section 6, we look at interdisciplinary careers beyond the PhD.

Kronfeldner M. Reconstituting Phenomena. In: Mäki U, Votsis I, Ruphy S, Schurz G, editors. Recent Developments in the Philosophy of Science: EPSA13 Helsinki. Cham: Springer; 2015. p. 169-82. (European Studies in Philosophy of Science).

Reconstituting Phenomena.

In the face of causal complexity, scientists reconstitute phenomena in order to arrive at a more simplified and partial picture that ignores most of the ?bigger picture.? This paper will distinguish between two modes of reconstituting phenomena: one moving down to a level of greater decomposition (toward organizational parts of the original phenomenon), and one moving up to a level of greater abstraction (toward different differences regarding the phenomenon). The first aim of the paper is to illustrate that phenomena are moving targets, i.e., they are not fixed once and for all, but are adapted, if necessary, on the basis of the preferred perspective adopted for pragmatic reasons. The second aim is to analyze in detail the second mode of reconstituting phenomena. This includes an exposition of the kind of pragmatic-pluralistic picture resulting from the fact that phenomena are reconstituted by a move up to a level of greater abstraction.

Naturgemäß ausgegrenzt: Die normative Kraft des Begriffs der menschlichen Natur in Gesellschaften und Wissenschaften

Im 20. Jhdt. wurde der Begriff der menschlichen Natur einer harschen wissenschaftlichen wie politischen Kritik unterzogen. Ein Darwinistisches Menschenbild, das auf Variation, Veränderung und Genealogie setzt, habe keinen Platz dafür, so die wissenschaftliche Kritik. Zudem, so die politische Kritik, hat die Verwendung des Begriffs in sozialen Kontexten erheblichen Schaden verursacht, da der Begriff zur Ausgrenzung bestimmter Personengruppen dient. Der Aufsatz führt zuerst in die Gemengelage ein, um auf dieser Basis die Ausgrenzung von Menschen mit Hilfe des Begriffs einer „Natur“ in sozialen Kontexten zu untersuchen. Anschließend wird eine analoge Ausgrenzung in wissenschaftlichen Kontexten eingeführt und diskutiert. Letztere bezieht sich auf Ursachen und diejenigen Experten, die diese Ursachen untersuchen. Durch dieses vergleichende Vorgehen soll transparent werden, wie der Begriff einer menschlichen Natur normative Kraft nicht nur in gesellschaftlichen, sondern auch in wissenschaftlichen Kontexten entfalten kann. Die Analyse erlaubt damit einen Einblick in die normative Verschränkung von Wissenschaft und Gesellschaft.

Problems and Prospects of Interdisciplinary Philosophy of Science: An Opinionated Report from the Workbench.

Early-career philosophers of science often find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place, facing conflicting demands. While they have to meet the rigorous standards of a career in philosophy, they are at the same time expected to possess detailed knowledge of the sciences they study. By pulling in different directions, these two poles can be difficult to bridge. Interdisciplinarily engaged philosophers of science face not just an increased workload but also institutional conditions that are not always supportive for their engagement. For instance, while the need for interdisciplinary research is impressed upon young researchers by their advisers and by the subject matters of their research, universities and funding institutions, by contrast, still follow rather conservative and disciplinary policies when they fill positions or allocate funding. In March 2013, the interdisciplinarity of philosophy of science and the resulting situation for early career researchers was the subject of a workshop and a panel discussion funded by the Andrea von Braun Foundation. This paper takes up several of the issues that were controversially disputed at that event.

Untersuchen alle das Gleiche bzw. hinreichend Ähnliches

This short piece is a comment on Krahe's paper on the social-psychology of aggression with a focus on definitional issues, construct validity and on how science and society interact.

Interdisciplinarity in Philosophy of Science.

This paper examines various ways in which philosophy of science can be interdisciplinary. It aims to provide a map of relations between philosophy and sciences, some of which are interdisciplinary. Such a map should also inform discussions concerning the question “How much Philosophy in the Philosophy of Science?” In Part 1, we distinguish between synoptic and collaborative interdisciplinarity. With respect to the latter, we furthermore distinguish two kinds of reflective forms of collaborative interdisciplinarity. We briefly explicate how complexity triggers interdisciplinarity. In Part 2, we apply these distinctions to philosophy of science and analyze in which sense different styles of philosophy of science are interdisciplinary. The styles that we discuss are a synoptic-general, a reflective-general, a reflective-particular, a particular-embedded, and a descriptive or normative style.

Recent work on human nature: Beyond traditional essences.

Recent philosophical work on the concept of human nature disagrees on how to respond to the Darwinian challenge, according to which biological species do not have traditional essences. Three broad kinds of reactions can be distinguished: (1) conservative intrinsic essentialism, which defends essences in the traditional sense, (2) eliminativism, which suggests dropping the concept of human nature altogether, and (3) constructive approaches, which argue that revisions can generate sensible concepts of human nature beyond traditional essences. The different constructive approaches pick out one or two of the three epistemic roles that are fused in traditional essentialist conceptions of human nature: descriptive (descriptivism), explanatory (explanativism), definitional (taxonomic relationalism), or explanatory and definitional (property cluster essentialism). These turns towards diverging epistemic roles are best interpreted pluralistically: there is a plurality of concepts of human nature that have to be clearly distinguished, each with a legitimate role in respective scientific contexts.

How norms make causes.

This paper is on the problem of causal selection and comments on Collingwood's classic paper "The so-called idea of causation". It discusses the relevance of Collingwood’s control principle in contemporary life sciences and defends that it is not the ability to control, but the willingness to control that often biases us towards some rather than other causes of a phenomenon. Willingness to control is certainly only one principle that influences causal selection, but it is an important one. It shows how norms make causes.

Die epistemische Fragmentierung des Menschen: Wie der Mensch zwischen Natur und Kultur verschwindet.

None of the contemporary scientific disciplines studies humans as humans. Science partitions the phenomenon of being human into different ‚slices‘, i.e., different epistemic objects, and does so according to its disciplinary structure. Through this epistemic fragmentation the human being itself disappears as an epistemic object of science. This paper analyses whether the epistemic fragmentation of ‘man’ in the contemporary sciences is something we should condemn or not. I shall argue that we should not, at least not in principle. Fragmentation can be of epistemic value and it can fail to be so. To show this, the paper compares separation and integration, understood as two complementary scientific research strategies, with respect to their heuristic fruitfulness. The main example for separation will be the hardening of the divide between nature and culture at the beginning of the 20th century. The paper ends with a note on what a philosophy of science perspective can and should contribute to an anthropological turn in philosophy.

Kronfeldner M. Evolution. In: Demmerling C, Stekeler-Weithofer P, editors. Wörterbücher zur Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft (WSK): Band 15 Sprachphilosophie .; 2013. 10.1515/wsk.15.0.evolution.
Kronfeldner M. Darwinismus. In: Demmerling C, Stekeler-Weithofer P, editors. Wörterbücher zur Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft (WSK): Band 15 Sprachphilosophie.; 2013. 10.1515/wsk.15.0.darwinismus.

Darwinian Creativity and Memetics

The book examines how Darwinism has been used to explain novelty and change in culture through the Darwinian approach to creativity and the theory of memes. The first claims that creativity is based on a Darwinian process of blind variation and selection, while the latter claims that culture is based on and explained by units - memes - that are similar to genes. Both theories try to describe and explain mind and culture by applying Darwinism by way of analogies. Kronfeldner shows that the analogies involved in these theories lead to claims that give either wrong or at least no new descriptions or explanations of the phenomena at issue. Whereas the two approaches are usually defended or criticized on the basis that they are dangerous for our vision of ourselves, this book takes a different perspective: it questions the acuteness of these approaches. Darwinian theory is not like a dangerous wolf, hunting for our self image. Far from it, in the case of the two analogical applications addressed in this book, Darwinian theory is shown to behave more like a disoriented sheep in wolf's clothing.

Kronfeldner M. Flause. In: Azzouni, Brandt S;, Gausemeier C;, Kursell B;, Schmidgen J;, Wittmann H; et al., editors. Eine Naturgeschichte f. Berlin: Max-Planck-Institut f; 2011. p. 166-68.
Kronfeldner M. Won't you please unite? Darwinism, cultural evolution and kinds of synthesis. In: Barahona A, Rheinberger H-J, Suarez-Diaz E, editors. The Hereditary Hourglass: Genetics and Epigenetics, 1868-2000. Vol Preprint 392. Berlin: Max Planck Insititute for the History of Science; 2010. p. 111-25.

Wenn Philosophen auf Biologen treffen: Über die Arbeit am Begriff im Dienste der Interdisziplinarität

Kann die Entstehung neuer Ideen im Menschen und die daran anschließende Verbreitungdieser neuen Ideen durch die Anwendung eines Darwinistischen Evolutionsschemas erklärtwerden? Der Prozess der Kreativität und der Veränderung wäre damit genauso wie die bio-logische Evolution im Sinne Darwins als ein sich ständig wiederholender, graduell kumulie-render Prozess von Versuch und Irrtum zu verstehen. – Ist eine solche Erklärung möglichund könntesie im Sinne einer allgemeinen Evolutionstheorie die Kluft zwischen Geistes-und Naturwissenschaften überbrücken helfen? Diese Fragen sollen Gegenstand einer syste-matischen, philosophischen Analyse sein.

Darwinian "blind" hypothesis formation revisited.

Over the last four decades arguments for and against the claim that creative hypothesis formation is based on Darwinian 'blind' variation have been put forward. This paper offers a new and systematic route through this long-lasting debate. It distinguishes between undirected, random, and unjustified variation, to prevent widespread confusions regarding the meaning of undirected variation. These misunderstandings concern Lamarckism, equiprobability, developmental constraints, and creative hypothesis formation. The paper then introduces and develops the standard critique that creative hypothesis formation is guided rather than blind, integrating developments from contemporary research on creativity. On that basis, I discuss three compatibility arguments that have been used to answer the critique. These arguments do not deny guided variation but insist that an important analogy exists nonetheless. These compatibility arguments all fail, even though they do so for different reasons: trivialisation, conceptual confusion, and lack of evidence respectively. Revisiting the debate in this manner not only allows us to see where exactly a 'Darwinian' account of creative hypothesis formation goes wrong, but also to see that the debate is not about factual issues, but about the interpretation of these factual issues in Darwinian terms. Keywords Darwinism, Blind variation,Creativity, Hypothesis formation, Guided variation, Lamarckism, Evolutionary epistemology, Popper, Campbell, Simonton.

Meme, Meme, Meme.

Charles Darwin und seine Erben wendeten die Theorie der Evolution biologischer Arten auch auf Kultur an. Kultur evolviere wie die Natur auf Darwinistische Weise. Die sog. Memtheorie, vertreten von verschiedenen Autoren auf der Basis des Darwinistischen Genselektionismus, ist eine Spielart einer solchen analogen Anwendung. Dieser Artikel kritisiert drei zentrale Aussagen der Memtheorie: (i) dass es Einheiten der Kultur – Meme – gibt, die analog zu Genen zu verstehen sind, (ii) dass Meme, in Analogie zu Genen, Replikatoren sind, und (iii) dass Meme als Einheiten der kulturellen Selektion auf die gleiche Art wie Gene 'egoistisch' sein können. Nach einer Einführung in die Memtheorie in Teil 1, werden diese drei Thesen in Teil 2 als entweder falsch oder trivial entlarvt. Dieser kritische Teil soll vor allem zeigen, dass die Memtheorie keine 'gefährliche Idee' ist, die das bisher in den Geistes- Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaften tradierte Verständnis von Geist und Kultur herausfordern kann. Im Gegenteil, im besten Fall re-formuliert die Memtheorie lediglich Bekanntes in evolutionärer Sprache und ist in diesem Sinne trivial. In Teil 3 wird die Perspektive gewechselt: Nicht mehr der Gehalt, sondern die Funktion der Memtheorie, v.a. im Kontext interdisziplinärer Verständigung, soll betrachtet werden. Denn trotz der Kritik der drei Kernthesen kann die Memtheorie eine kommunikative und somit produktive Rolle zwischen den 'zwei Kulturen' der Wissenschaften spielen.

Creativity Naturalized.

I argue that creativity is compatible with determinism and therefore with naturalistic explanation. I explore different kinds of novelty, corresponding with four distinct concepts of creativity - anthropological, historical, psychological and metaphysical. Psychological creativity incorporates originality and spontaneity. Taken together, these point to the independence of the creative mind from social learning, experience and previously acquired knowledge. This independence is nevertheless compatible with determinism. Creativity is opposed to specific causal factors, but it does not exclude causal determination as such. So creativity can be naturalized.

"If there is nothing beyond the organic...": Heredity and Culture at the Boundaries of Anthropology in the Work of Alfred L. Kroeber.

Continuing Franz Boas' work to establish anthropology as an academic discipline in the US at the turn of the twentieth century, Alfred L. Kroeber re-defined culture as a phenomenon sui generis. To achieve this he asked geneticists to enter into a coalition against hereditarian thoughts prevalent at that time in the US. The goal was to create space for anthropology as a separate discipline within academia, distinct from other disciplines. To this end he crossed the boundary separating anthropology from biology in order to secure the boundary. His notion of culture, closely bound to the concept of heredity, saw it as independent of biological heredity (culture as superorganic) but at the same time as a heredity of another sort. The paper intends to summarise the shifting boundaries of anthropology at the beginning of the twentieth century, and to present Kroeber?s ideas on culture, with a focus on how the changing landscape of concepts of heredity influenced his views. The historical case serves to illustrate two general conclusions: that the concept of culture played and plays different roles in explaining human existence; that genetics and the concept of Weismannian hard inheritance did not have an unambiguous unidirectional historical effect on the vogue for hereditarianism at that time; on the contrary, it helped to establish culture in Kroeber's sense, culture as independent of heredity. Keywords: culture, heredity, cultural anthropology, superorganic, hard inheritance, Alfred L. Kroeber, Franz Boas.

Genetic Determinism and the Innate-Acquired Distinction.

This article illustrates in which sense genetic determinism is still part of the contemporary interactionist consensus in medicine. Three dimensions of this consensus are discussed: kinds of causes, a continuum of traits ranging from monogenetic diseases to car accidents, and different kinds of determination due to different norms of reaction. On this basis, this article explicates in which sense the interactionist consensus presupposes the innate?acquired distinction. After a descriptive Part 1, Part 2 reviews why the innate?acquired distinction is under attack in contemporary philosophy of biology. Three arguments are then presented to provide a limited and pragmatic defense of the distinction: an epistemic, a conceptual, and a historical argument. If interpreted in a certain manner, and if the pragmatic goals of prevention and treatment (ideally specifying what medicine and health care is all about) are taken into account, then the innate?acquired distinction can be a useful epistemic tool. It can help, first, to understand that genetic determination does not mean fatalism, and, second, to maintain a system of checks and balances in the continuing nature?nurture debates.

Kronfeldner M. Von Macbeth bis Machwerk: Kreativität und Abgrenzung. In: Solitude AS, editor. Von etwas, das nie aufhört. Stuttgart: Merz & Solitude; 2008. p. 100-2. (Jahrbuch 9).

Trigger me: Evolutionspsychologie, Genzentrismus und die Idee der Kultur.

Die Evolutionspsychologie hat vor ungefähr 20 Jahren die Nachfolge der Soziobiologie angetreten und zieht seitdem gegen die angebliche Rückständigkeit der Sozialwissenschaften zu Felde. Der Gegenstand dieses Textes ist die Rückständigkeit der Evolutionspsychologie - Rückständigkeit in Bezug auf die Art und Weise, wie das Phänomen Kultur zugerichtet wird, um es dann, jenseits der Lippenbekenntnisse zur Kultur, als explanatorisch irrelevant zu ignorieren.

Is Cultural Evolution Lamarckian?

The article addresses the question whether culture evolves in a Lamarckian manner. I highlight three central aspects of a Lamarckian concept of evolution: the inheritance of acquired characteristics, the transformational pattern of evolution, and the concept of directed changes. A clear exposition of these aspects shows that a system can be a Darwinian variational system instead of a Lamarckian transformational one, even if it is based on inheritance of acquired characteristics and/or on Lamarckian directed changes. On this basis, I apply the three aspects to culture. Taking for granted that culture is a variational system, based on selection processes, I discuss in detail the senses in which cultural inheritance can be said to be Lamarckian and in which sense problem solving, a major factor in cultural change, leads to directed variation. Keywords: cultural evolution, Lamarckism, inheritance of acquired characteristics, transformational evolution, directed variation, memes, problem solving.

Kronfeldner M. Zum Begriff der psychologischen Kreativität als Basis einer naturalistischen Kreativitätstheorie: eine kompatibilistische Rekonstruktion von Originalität und Spontaneität. In: Abel G, editor. Kreativität: Sektionsbeiträge/XX. Deutscher Kongress für Philosophie, 26.-30. September 2005 in Berlin. Vol 1. Berlin: Univ.-Verl. der TU Berlin; 2005. p. 19-30.

Kommentar - Analogie in welcher Hinsicht: Echt, formal, nur bildhaft oder schlicht zu schwach?

Kommentar zu B. Stephan: Übereinstimmungen und Analogien zwischen der Evolution biotischer Systeme und der Entwicklung gesellschaftlicher Systeme