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-fourth contribution in the series, submitted by Suzanne Kawamleh.


Ants and NGOs

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Margaret Mead 

I work for a non-profit organization that aims to provide higher education opportunities to civilians inside war torn Syria, Promise for Relief and Human Development. We have a few other aims as well. We hope to provide an alternative to joining any one of the armed or extremist groups actively recruiting young men and women. We wish to encourage critical thinking. We want our campuses to serve as community centers with public lectures on relevant social issues like prescription drug abuse and psychosocial concerns like PTSD in war-ravaged civilian populations. We have achieved this amidst one of the worst man-made disasters since World War II. Missile strikes, chemical weapons, beheadings, and sexual violence as a weapon of war are standard fare in Syria. And yet, our students attend seminars, form study groups, and sit in exams. It is a striking example of organization amidst chaos and violence, one of the most astonishing successes to take place within the borders of a failed state.

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Organization amidst chaos and violence. Photo: PRHD

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-third contribution in the series, submitted by Dr. Michael Ruse.


All About Ants:
What Darwin the Scientist Learnt From Darwin the Christian and What That Tells Us About Darwinism Today

Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,
Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.
(Proverbs 6: 6-8)

Many people in American society today loathe and detest evolutionary thinking and have a special animus against the theory held by virtually all professional biologists, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection (Numbers 2006). This opposition by evangelical Christians and fellow travelers is understandable. You simply cannot accept Genesis taken literally – Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and their irresistible desire for forbidden fruit – and hold to modern thinking on paleoanthropology – the study of human origins. What is truly surprising is the extent to which Darwinism – by some, evolution even – is opposed by today’s leading professional philosophers. In recent works, noted thinkers Thomas Nagel (2012) and Jerry Fodor (Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini 2010) have both written strongly against Darwinism. Alvin Plantinga (1991, 2011) doubts evolution itself and thinks Darwinism collapses in on itself.

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-second contribution in the series, submitted by Chris Blake-Turner.


Trantsformative Experience

Let me start by making sure I say at least one true thing in this post: ants and humans are very different. I’m going to use this platitude to explore a problem that arises when we try to make some of the most important decisions in our lives. In particular, it seems that we can’t rationally decide: to have children; to change careers; to go to college.

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A leafcutter ant with its children in a colony. Photo: Alex Wild

Consider the following two scenarios.

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”