The Daily Ant hosts a weekly series, Philosophy Phridays, in which real philosophers share their thoughts at the intersection of ants and philosophy. This is the twenty-first contribution in the series, submitted by Dr. Lauren Ashwell.


Dispositions and Ant-idotes

Dispositions have seemed to some philosophers to be too spooky and other-worldly to be properties in their own right. Instead, these philosophers have tried to analyze dispositions away in terms they found more ontologically palatable. Dispositional ascriptions, it was once thought, are really just assertions of counterfactuals connecting stimulus conditions to manifestation conditions: to say that something is soluble in water is just to say that it would dissolve if it were placed in water, to say that something is flammable is just to say that it would burn if an ignition source were applied, and to say that something is poisonous is just to say that it would harm you if you were exposed to it [i].

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This fire ant is very disposed to hurt you. Photo: Alex Wild

The Daily Ant hosts a weekly series, Philosophy Phridays, in which real philosophers share their thoughts at the intersection of ants and philosophy. This is the twentieth contribution in the series and the first coauthored piece, jointly submitted by Eddy Chen (陈科名) and Isaac Wilhelm. Edited on Sunday, July 9, 2017.


From Ants to Quantum Non-Locality

Though much has been said about the amazing insects known as ants, their capacity to illustrate the novel and mysterious phenomenon of quantum non-locality is under-discussed. We hope to fill in the gap on this Philosophy Phriday.

The Daily Ant hosts a weekly series, Philosophy Phridays, in which real philosophers share their thoughts at the intersection of ants and philosophy. This is the nineteenth contribution in the series, submitted by Dr. Lorraine Keller.


Ants Doing Math and Kids Doing Linguistics?

It is probably no surprise that the desert ant, Cataglyphis, has already been mentioned several times on this blog (see here, here, and here). As previously discussed, these ants have an extraordinary ability to find their way home in conditions that apparently require triangulation. Cataglyphis has been described as “mentally representing” time, distance, and their location in 3D space (Goldman 2012). More surprisingly, these ants are described as performing simple mathematical calculations that are approximations of the kinds of vector summations that human navigators would use (see Müller and Wehner 1988).

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Cataglyphis returns to Philosophy Phridays! Photo: José Mariá Escolano

The Daily Ant hosts a weekly series, Philosophy Phridays, in which real philosophers share their thoughts at the intersection of ants and philosophy. This is the eighteenth contribution in the series, submitted by Dr. Curtis Franks.


Towards a ‘Pataphysics of Anthills

A quick Google search of the noun-phrase “Ant Hill” turns up fifty-three million articles about Clarence Thomas and almost nothing about ant hills themselves. A more conscientious search, especially one that does not utilize the autocomplete device provided by most modern webreaders, returns only about a tenth as many articles, but more than half of them are about ant hills. This single observation should suffice to underscore the importance of methodological piety in all inquiries about ants and their hills. One must be clear up front: What are our questions? What methods shall we use to answer them? What are the limits of reasonable precision for this type of investigation, and how can we most efficiently surpass them?

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An anthill. Or is it? Photo: Alex Wild

The Daily Ant hosts a weekly series, Philosophy Phridays, in which real philosophers share their thoughts at the intersection of ants and philosophy. This is the sixteenth contribution in the series, submitted by Dustin Crummett.


Ants and the Problem of Evil

Theists are people who, like me, believe in an all-good and all-powerful God. Theists face the problem of evil: the problem of explaining why, if God is good and all-powerful, the world is such a miserable place. Philosophers considering the problem of evil focus overwhelmingly on the suffering of human beings, and, somewhat less frequently, the suffering of easily likeable non-human animals, such as fawns. But some people have asked why God would allow what they took to be the suffering of insects and similar creatures. Charles Darwin told his contemporary Asa Grey[1] that he could not understand why a good God would create Ichumonidae wasps, some of which lay their eggs within caterpillars, their larvae eating the caterpillars from the inside out upon hatching. And Robert Frost, in his poem “Design,” relayed seeing a spider eat a moth, writing:

What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?—
If design govern in a thing so small.[2]

The Daily Ant hosts a weekly series, Philosophy Phridays, in which real philosophers share their thoughts at the intersection of ants and philosophy. This is the fifteenth contribution in the series, submitted by Dr. Michael Rea.


Ants and the Hiddenness of God

If God loves us, why doesn’t God openly communicate with us?  This question resonates with a lot of people. My first clue as to the depth of its impact came in college, when a friend of mine broke down in tears over it.  “I have served God my entire life,” she said, “and God is supposed to be my heavenly father. So why can’t he, just once, whisper ‘I love you’?”

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An ant’s search for God. Image: Andrea Lucky/Myrmecos

The Daily Ant hosts a weekly series, Philosophy Phridays, in which real philosophers share their thoughts at the intersection of ants and philosophy. This is the fourteenth contribution in the series, submitted by Amber Carlson.


She’s a Man(t)eater

What do Hall and Oates, anti-feminists, and myrmecologists have in common?

They’re each concerned with “maneaters.”

Hall and Oates are famous for their depiction of a woman who is beautiful, in control of her sexuality, but uses men for her financial benefit. “The beauty is there,” they say, but “money’s the matter” and so “if you’re in it for love, you ain’t gonna get too far.” But in addition to simply being a disappointing love interest for some, they liken her to a wild animal saying that “a beast is in her heart.” Any man interested in her must be warned. After all, “she’s deadly, man. She could really rip your world apart.” An empowering anthem for some women, but a fatal warning to men: “Watch out boy, she’ll chew you up,” they say. “She’s a maneater.”

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Female ants surround a male. Hall & Oates say “Watch out!” Photo: Alex Wild

The Daily Ant hosts a weekly series, Philosophy Phridays, in which real philosophers share their thoughts at the intersection of ants and philosophy. This is the thirteenth contribution in the series, submitted by Dr. David Schwartz.


Human Nature, Ethics, and Ants

Human nature is a perennial topic of Western philosophy: What does it mean to be human? What distinguishes humans from other species, or from machines? The history of philosophy is filled with answers, the most famous being that humans are the political animal, the thinking animal, the self-conscious animal, the tool-making animal, the warring animal, and the linguistic animal. Of particular interest to my field, ethics and value, is the claim that humans are the ethical animal. That is, we are the only animal that has a sense of fairness and justice, can act altruistically, and that possesses the free will needed to choose moral duty over instinctual reaction.

While it has taken philosophers a long time to catch up, this way of thinking about humanity – that we are different in kind from all other species – began to crumble with the work of Charles Darwin. His idea of natural selection offered a plausible mechanism that confirmed the idea that species are not immutable ‘natural kinds’ but only temporal snapshots of an on-going developmental process.   This greatly upset many people because it implied that humans were not different in kind from all other species, the sole possessor of an immaterial mind. Rather, humans differ from other species only by degree of evolutionary development. So while only humans can do mathematics or write literature, this does not mean these abilities are super-natural or somehow transcendent of material processes. It does mean that understanding human nature now requires understanding our evolutionary history.

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Charles is like, “yeah lol ur wrong. Sorrynotsorry”

The Daily Ant hosts a weekly series, Philosophy Phridays, in which real philosophers share their thoughts at the intersection of ants and philosophy. This is the twelfth contribution in the series, submitted by Kevin Lande.


O Ant, Where Art Thou?

Do ants have any idea where they are and where home is at? When they go out into the world, do they grasp how far they have gone or what turns their path has taken? Desert ants (Cataglyphis) are able reliably to return to their homes, having left them in search of food. But the ability to reliably get back home does not imply that one has an idea, a mental representation or map, that specifies where in space home is located. Reflecting on why not helps us to get some purchase on a broader question: What sorts of abilities, or behaviors, indicate the presence of such mental representations? What abilities or behaviors indicate the presence of mind?

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Cataglyphis ant in search of home, maybe. Photo: José María Escolano

The Daily Ant hosts a weekly series, Philosophy Phridays, in which real philosophers share their thoughts at the intersection of ants and philosophy. This is the eleventh contribution in the series, submitted by Dr. David Detmer.


Giraffes Are Taller Than Ants, and Other Observations

Giraffes are taller than ants. I claim to know this. Moreover, I maintain that “giraffes are taller than ants” is an objective truth. It accurately reports on one aspect of what the world, quite apart from human subjectivity, is really like, so that anyone who denies it–anyone who thinks that ants are as tall as, or taller than, giraffes–is simply mistaken, wrong, incorrect.

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Geoff the Giraffe considers objective truths

The Daily Ant hosts a weekly series, Philosophy Phridays, in which real philosophers share their thoughts at the intersection of ants and philosophy. This is the ninth contribution in the series, submitted by Dr. Richard Polt.


On Formiciform Virtue: Plato’s Ants

As he imagines scenarios for the afterlife—which he’ll be entering within a few hours—Socrates speculates that if there’s reincarnation, those who have practiced “social virtue” should come back as members of “a social and orderly species” in their next life. Yes: they may be reborn as ants (Plato, Phaedo 82b).