Being human while trying to scientifically study human nature confronts us with our most vexing problem. Efforts to explicate the human mind are thwarted by our cultural biases and entrenched infirmities; our first-person experiences as practical agents convince us that we have capacities beyond the reach of scientific explanation. What we need to move forward in our understanding of human agency, Paul Sheldon Davies argues, is a reform in the way we study ourselves and a long overdue break with traditional (...) humanist thinking. Davies locates a model for change in the rhetorical strategies employed by Charles Darwin in _On the Origin of Species_. Darwin worked hard to anticipate and diminish the anxieties and biases that his radically historical view of life was bound to provoke. Likewise, Davies draws from the history of science and contemporary psychology and neuroscience to build a framework for the study of human agency that identifies and diminishes outdated and limiting biases. The result is a heady, philosophically wide-ranging argument in favor of recognizing that humans are, like everything else, subjects of the natural world—an acknowledgement that may free us to see the world the way it actually is. (shrink)
A persistent boast of the historical approach to functions is that functional properties are normative. The claim is that a token trait retains its functional status even when it is defective, diseased, or damaged and consequently unable to perform the relevant task. This is because historical functional categories are defined in terms of some sort of historical success -- success in natural selection, typically -- which imposes a norm upon the performance of descendent tokens. Descendents thus are supposed to perform (...) the associated task even when they cannot. The conceit, then, is that malfunctions are explicable in terms of historical success. The aim of this paper is to challenge this conceit. My thesis is that the historical approach to functions lacks the resources with which to account for the possibility of malfunctions. If functional types are defined in terms of historical success, then tokens that lack the defining property due to defect, and tokens that have lost the defining property due to disease or damage, are excluded from the functional category. Historically based malfunctions, in consequence, are impossible. The historical approach is no better than its non-historical competitors in accounting for the presumed normativity of functional properties. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to clarify and critically assess the methods of evolutionary psychology, and offer a sketch of an alternative methodology. My thesis is threefold. (1) The methods of inquiry unique to evolutionary psychology rest upon the claim that the discovery of theadaptive functions of ancestral psychological capacities leads to the discovery of thepsychological functions of those ancestral capacities. (2) But this claim is false; in fact, just the opposite is true. We first must discover the psychological (...) functions of our psychological capacities in order to discover their adaptive functions. Hence the methods distinctive of evolutionary psychology are idle in our search for the mechanisms of the mind. (3) There are good reasons for preferring an alternative to the methods of evolutionary psychology, an alternative that aims to discover the functions of our psychological capacities by appeal to the concept of awhole psychology. (shrink)
The social exchange theory of reasoning, which is championed by Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, falls under the general rubric evolutionary psychology and asserts that human reasoning is governed by content-dependent, domain-specific, evolutionarily-derived algorithms. According to Cosmides and Tooby, the presumptive existence of what they call cheater-detection algorithms disconfirms the claim that we reason via general-purpose mechanisms or via inductively acquired principles. We contend that the Cosmides/Tooby arguments in favor of domain-specific algorithms or evolutionarily-derived mechanisms fail and that the notion (...) of a social exchange rule, which is central to their theory, is not correctly characterized. As a consequence, whether or not their conclusion is true cannot be established on the basis of the arguments they have presented. (shrink)
Sober (1992) has recently evaluated Brandon's (1982, 1990; see also 1985, 1988) use of Salmon's (1971) concept of screening-off in the philosophy of biology. He critiques three particular issues, each of which will be considered in this discussion.
Teleosemantics asserts that mental content is determined by natural selection. The thesis is that content is fixed by the historical conditions under which certain cognitive mechanisms—those that produce and those that interpret representational states—were selectively successful. Content is fixed by conditions of selective success. The thesis of this paper is that teleosemantics is mistaken, that content cannot be fixed by conditions of selective success, because those conditions typically outnumber the intentional objects within a given representational state. To defend against this (...) excess, advocates of teleosemantics must attempt to privilege some conditions of success while ignoring others. This results in selective explanations that are ad hoc, thereby depriving teleosemantics of the virtues it hoped to inherit from the theory of evolution by natural selection, including its alleged naturalistic credentials. (shrink)
To ‘Darwinize’ a debunking argument is to broaden and thereby strengthen it in ways inspired by Charles Darwin. It is to employ Darwinian strategies that converge on the conclusion that certain putative phenomena – the reality of stance‐independent moral properties, for instance – are illusory or epistemically problematic for animals like us. The aim of this essay is to defend one such strategy and illustrate its power relative to most evolutionary debunking arguments currently on offer.
Fred Dretske asserts that the conscious or phenomenal experiences associated with our perceptual states—e.g. the qualitative or subjective features involved in visual or auditory states—are identical to properties that things have according to our representations of them. This is Dretske's version of the currently popular representational theory of consciousness . After explicating the core of Dretske's representational thesis, I offer two criticisms. I suggest that Dretske's view fails to apply to a broad range of mental phenomena that have rather distinctive (...) subjective or qualitative features. I also suggest that Dretske's view, in identifying conscious experiences with features of our perceptual states, casts its aim too low. It deflates further than it should and, in consequence, fails to capture what are arguably some of the most important phenomena associated with our conscious lives. (shrink)
This dissertation is concerned with two general issues. A theory of functional or teleological properties, as possessed by natural objects, grounded in the theory of evolution by natural selection. This I refer to as the evolutionary theory of functions. A cluster of theories in philosophy of mind which attempt to explicate intentionality--the representational powers of mental phenomena--in terms of evolutionary functions. ;The aim of this dissertation is threefold. To develop a version of the evolutionary theory of functions in which the (...) proper role of evolution by natural selection is made fully explicit. To defend two theses in philosophy of biology, namely that the evolutionary theory of functions, when properly articulated, cannot justify the attribution of malfunctions to any natural objects, and that the evolutionary theory of functions justifies the attribution of evolutionary functions only to those organismic traits that directly causally engage the relevant selective demands, and hence does not justify the attribution of any evolutionary functions to paradigmatically functional traits such as hearts, kidneys, etc. To defend two analogous these in philosophy of mind, namely that the evolutionary theory of functions, insofar as it cannot account for malfunctions, cannot account for misrepresentations , and that the evolutionary theory of functions warrants the attribution of evolutionary functions to just those effects of the mind which directly engage the organism with its environment, but not to those mechanisms or states of the mind concerned with representational contents. ;A secondary aim is to argue that the most developed view of evolutionary functions in the recent literature--a view presented in Millikan --is inadequate on internal grounds. ;The general conclusion of the dissertation is twofold. First, the evolutionary theory of functions is restricted in surprising ways; this is an important result in philosophy of biology. Second, and as a consequence of the first, the evolutionary theory of functions is of no avail in theories of intentionality; this is an important result in philosophy of mind. (shrink)
Andrews et al. subscribe to the view that distinguishing selectionist from nonselectionist hypotheses – or, distinguishing adaptations from mere spandrels or exaptations – is important to the study of psychology. I offer three reasons for thinking that this view is false; that considerations of past selective efficacy have little to contribute to inquiry in psychology.