Prehistory, anti-Cartesianism, and the first-person viewpoint

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences:1-20 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

The concept of mind is widely used in today’s debates on the lives, behavior, and cognition of prehistoric hominins. It is therefore presumably an important concept. Yet it is very rarely defined, and in most cognitive-archaeological literature, it does not seem to point to anything distinctive. In recent years, talk of minds has also been criticized as being internalistic and dualistic, in supposed contrast to new materialistic and externalistic approaches. In this paper, I aim to defend a different concept of mind which can be used in theorizing about prehistoric hominin cognition. In short, my concept is simply that of the first-person viewpoint, understood in a naturalized manner, and as characterized by intentionality. The discussion proceeds by examining what I perceive to be three prevailing misconceptions about minds, which I derive mainly from the archaeological literature. I use this discussion to outline my own concept of mind, as well as to defend it against the frequently heard criticisms of dualism and internalism. In the final parts, I briefly discuss some potential practical applications of an intentional approach to past minds. Here I focus on certain conceptual problems in debates on symbolic cognition.

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Corijn van Mazijk
University of Groningen

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