Where does the mind begin and end? Most philosophers and cognitive scientists take the view that the mind is bounded by the skull or skin of the individual. Robert Wilson, in this provocative and challenging 2004 book, provides the foundations for the view that the mind extends beyond the boundary of the individual. The approach adopted offers a unique blend of traditional philosophical analysis, cognitive science, and the history of psychology and the human sciences. The companion volume, Genes and the (...) Agents of Life, explores the theme in the biological sciences. Written with verve and clarity, this ambitious book will appeal to a broad swathe of professionals and students in philosophy, psychology, cognitive science, and the history of the behavioural and human sciences. You can download the table of contents here. (shrink)
1. The Situation in Cognition 2. Situated Cognition: A Potted Recent History 3. Extensions in Biology, Computation, and Cognition 4. Articulating the Idea of Cognitive Extension 5. Are Some Resources Intrinsically Non-Cognitive? 6. Is Cognition Extended or Only Embedded? 7. Letting Nature Take Its Course.
Sociobiology developed in the 1960s as a field within evolutionary biology to explain human social traits and behaviours. Although sociobiology has few direct connections to eugenics, it shares eugenics’ optimistic enthusiasm for extending biological science into the human domain, often with reckless sensationalism. Sociobiology's critics have argued that sociobiology also propagates a kind of genetic determinism and represents the zealous misapplication of science beyond its proper reach that characterized the eugenics movement. More recently, evolutionary psychology represents a sophistication of sociobiology (...) that attends to the mind as the "missing link" between evolution and behaviour (Cosmides and Tooby 1992, Pinker 1997). (shrink)
Genes and the Agents of Life undertakes to rethink the place of the individual in the biological sciences, drawing parallels with the cognitive and social sciences. Genes, organisms, and species are all agents of life but how are each of these conceptualized within genetics, developmental biology, evolutionary biology, and systematics? The 2005 book includes highly accessible discussions of genetic encoding, species and natural kinds, and pluralism above the levels of selection, drawing on work from across the biological sciences. The book (...) is a companion to the author's Boundaries of the Mind (2004), also available from Cambridge, where the focus is the cognitive sciences. The book will appeal to a broad range of professionals and students in philosophy, biology, and the history of science. You can download the table of contents and the first chapter here. (shrink)
Essentialism is widely regarded as a mistaken view of biological kinds, such as species. After recounting why (sections 2-3), we provide a brief survey of the chief responses to the “death of essentialism” in the philosophy of biology (section 4). We then develop one of these responses, the claim that biological kinds are homeostatic property clusters (sections 5-6) illustrating this view with several novel examples (section 7). Although this view was first expressed 20 years ago, and has received recent discussion (...) and critique, it remains underdeveloped and is often misrepresented by its critics (section 8). (shrink)
The view that it is better for life to be created free of disability is pervasive in both common sense and philosophy. We cast doubt on this view by focusing on an influential line of thinking that manifests it. That thinking begins with a widely-discussed principle, Procreative Beneficence, and draws conclusions about parental choice and disability. After reconstructing two versions of this argument, we critique the first by exploring the relationship between different understandings of well-being and disability, and the second (...) by more briefly focusing on the idea of a significant reason. By placing these results against the broader historical and ongoing contexts in which the lives of those with disabilities have been deemed of inferior quality, we conclude with a call for greater humility about disability and well-being in thought and practice. (shrink)
The computational argument for individualism, which moves from computationalism to individualism about the mind, is problematic, not because computationalism is false, but because computational psychology is, at least sometimes, wide. The paper provides an early, or perhaps predecessor, version of the thesis of extended cognition.
In this paper, we aim to show that the framework of embedded, distributed, or extended cognition offers new perspectives on social cognition by applying it to one specific domain: the psychology of memory. In making our case, first we specify some key social dimensions of cognitive distribution and some basic distinctions between memory cases, and then describe stronger and weaker versions of distributed remembering in the general distributed cognition framework. Next, we examine studies of social influences on memory in cognitive (...) psychology, and identify the valuable concepts and methods to be extended and embedded in our framework; we focus in particular on three related paradigms: transactive memory, collaborative recall, and social contagion. Finally, we sketch our own early studies of individual and group memory developed within our framework of distributed cognition, on social contagion of autobiographical memories, collaborative flashbulb memories, and memories of high school at a high school reunion. We see two reciprocal benefits of this conceptual and empirical framework to social memory phenomena: that ideas about distributed cognition can be honed against and tested with the help of sophisticated methods in the social cognitive psychology of memory; and conversely, that a range of social memory phenomena that are as yet poorly understood can be approached afresh with theoretically motivated extensions of existing empirical paradigms. (shrink)
This collection of original essays--by philosophers of biology, biologists, and cognitive scientists--provides a wide range of perspectives on species. Including contributions from David Hull, John Dupre, David Nanney, Kevin de Queiroz, and Kim Sterelny, amongst others, this book has become especially well-known for the three essays it contains on the homeostatic property cluster view of natural kinds, papers by Richard Boyd, Paul Griffiths, and Robert A. Wilson.
The Eugenic Mind Project is a wide-ranging, philosophical book that explores and critiques both past and present eugenic thinking, drawing on the author’s intimate knowledge of eugenics in North America and his previous work on the cognitive, biological, and social sciences, the fragile sciences. Informed by the perspectives of Canadian eugenics survivors in the province of Alberta, The Eugenic Mind Project recounts the history of eugenics and the thinking that drove it, and critically engages contemporary manifestations of eugenic thought, newgenics. (...) An accessible, original work of scholarship adopting what the author calls a standpoint eugenics, this book focuses on the roots of eugenic thinking past and present. It will provoke and enrich discussions about human nature and human diversity, the social uses of biotechnology, and social policy governing future generations. You can download the preface and acknowledgements here. (shrink)
The conceptualisation of kinship and its study remain contested within anthropology. This paper draws on recent cognitive science, developmental cognitive psychology, and the philosophy of science to offer a novel argument for a view of kinship as progeneratively or reproductively constrained. I shall argue that kinship involves a form of extended cognition that incorporates progenerative facts, going on to show how the resulting articulation of kinship’s progenerative nature can be readily expressed by an influential conception of kinds, the homeostatic property (...) cluster view. Identifying the distinctive role that our extended cognitive access to progenerative facts plays in kinship delivers an integrative, progenerativist view that avoids standard performativist criticisms of progenerativism as being ethnocentric, epistemically naïve, and reductive. (shrink)
While memory is conceptualized predominantly as an individual capacity in the cognitive and biological sciences, the social sciences have most commonly construed memory as a collective phenomenon. Collective memory has been put to diverse uses, ranging from accounts of nationalism in history and political science to views of ritualization and commemoration in anthropology and sociology. These appeals to collective memory share the idea that memory ‘‘goes beyond the individual’’ but often run together quite diﬀerent claims in spelling out that idea. (...) This paper reviews a sampling of recent work on collective memory in the light of emerging externalist views within the cognitive sciences, and through some reﬂection on broader traditions of thought in the biological and social sciences that have appealed to the idea that groups have minds. The paper concludes with some thoughts about the relationship between these kinds of cognitive metaphors in the social sciences and our notion of agency. (shrink)
Dominant views of personal identity in philosophy take some kind of psychological continuity or connectedness over time to be criterial for the identity of a person over time. Such views assign psychological states, particularly those necessary for narrative memory of some kind, special importance in thinking about the nature of persons. The extended mind thesis, which has generated much recent discussion in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science, holds that a person’s psychological states can physically extend beyond that person’s (...) body. Since “person” is a term of both metaphysical and moral significance, and discussions of both extended minds and personal identity have often focused on memory, this article explores the relevance of extended cognition for the identity of persons with special attention to neuroethics and memory. (shrink)
This book offers the first sustained critique of individualism in psychology, a view that has been the subject of debate between philosophers such as Jerry Fodor and Tyler Burge for many years. The author approaches individualism as an issue in the philosophy of science and by discussing issues such as computationalism and the mind's modularity he opens the subject up for non-philosophers in psychology and computer science. Professor Wilson carefully examines the most influential arguments for individualism and identifies the main (...) metaphysical assumptions underlying them. Since the topic is so central to the philosophy of mind, a discipline generating enormous research and debate at present, the book has implications for a very broad range of philosophical issues including the naturalisation of intentionality, psychophysical supervenience, the nature of mental causation, and the viability of folk psychology. (shrink)
"Amongst the human mind's proudest accomplishments is the invention of a science dedicated to understanding itself: cognitive science. ... This volume is an authoritative guide to this exhilarating new body of knowledge, written by the experts, edited with skill and good judment. If we were to leave a time capsule for the next millennium with records of the great achievements of civilization, this volume would have to be in it."--Steven Pinker.
The Westermarck Effect posits that intimate association during childhood promotes human incest avoidance. In previous work, I articulated and defended a version of the Westermarck Effect by developing a phylogenetic argument that has purchase within primatology but that has had more limited appeal for cultural anthropologists due to their commitment to conventionalist or culture-first accounts of incest avoidance. Here I look to advance the discussion of incest and incest avoidance beyond culture-first accounts in two ways. First, I shall dig deeper (...) into the disciplinary grooves within cultural anthropology that make attractive the view that incest has a naturalness to it that is countered only or primarily by explicit social rules, such as taboos. Second, I further explore the emerging, post-conventionalist view of incest avoidance in a more positive vein by elaborating on the nature of the Westermarckian mechanism and how it relates to such explicit social rules and our innate biological endowments. One general aim here is to overcome the bifurcation between perspectives that are seen as biological and those seen as cultural, preempting or countering the claim that rejecting culture-first accounts entails a form of biological reductionism, a general aim I have pursued in related publications on bioessentialism about kinship. (shrink)
This paper begins by saying enough about eugenics to explain why disability is central to eugenics (section 2), then elaborates on why cognitive disability has played and continues to play a special role in eugenics and in thinking about moral status (section 3) before identifying three reasons why eugenics remains a live issue in contemporary bioethics (section 4). After a reminder of the connections between Nazi eugenics, medicine, and bioethics (section 5), it returns to take up two more specific clusters (...) of issues at the intersection of eugenics, disability, and bioethics. These concern questions of life, death, and reproductive value (section 6) and the value of standpoint theory and epistemology for understanding some of the tensions between bioethics and disability in light of a shared eugenic past (section 7). (shrink)
This paper considers ten questions that those puzzled by or skeptical of extended cognition have posed. Discussion of these questions ranges across substantive, methodological, and dialectical issues in the ongoing debate over extended cognition, such as whether the issue between proponents and opponents of extended cognition is merely semantic or a matter of convention; whether extended cognition should be treated in the same way as extended biology; and whether conscious mental states pose a special problem for the extended mind thesis. (...) Lethocerus, the giant water bug, will be a recurrent reference point for much of the discussion. (shrink)
This paper examines the standard view of realization operative incontemporary philosophy of mind, and proposes an alternative, generalperspective on realization. The standard view can be expressed, insummary form, as the conjunction of two theses, the sufficiency thesis andthe constitutivity thesis. Physicalists of both reductionist and anti-reductionist persuasions share a conception of realization wherebyrealizations are determinative of the properties they realize and physically constitutive of the individuals with those properties. Centralto the alternative view that I explore here is the idea that (...) the requisite,metaphysically robust notion of realization is ineliminably context-sensitive. I shall argue that the sufficiency and constitutivity theses aretypically not jointly satisfied by any one candidate realizer, and that goingcontext-sensitive in one's metaphysics is preferable to the standard view.The context-sensitive views developed here are implicit in a range ofcommon views in both the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of biology,even if they have not been explicitly articulated, and even though theyundermine other views that are commonly endorsed. (shrink)
Individuals are a prominent part of the biological world. Although biologists and philosophers of biology draw freely on the concept of an individual in articulating both widely accepted and more controversial claims, there has been little explicit work devoted to the biological notion of an individual itself. How should we think about biological individuals? What are the roles that biological individuals play in processes such as natural selection (are genes and groups also units of selection?), speciation (are species individuals?), and (...) organismic development (do genomes code for organisms)? Much of our discussion here will focus on organisms as a central kind of biological individual, and that discussion will raise broader questions about the nature of the biological world, for example, about its complexity, its organization, and its relation to human thought. (shrink)
Philosophers of biology and biologists themselves for the most part assume that the concept of kin is progenerative: what makes two individuals kin is a direct or indirect function of reproduction. Derivatively, kinship might likewise be presumed to be progenerative in nature. Yet a prominent view of kinship in contemporary cultural anthropology is a kind of constructivism or performativism that rejects such progenerativist views. This paper critically examines an influential line of thinking used to critique progenerativism and support performativism that (...) cites cross-cultural diversity in what I will call kinmaking. I challenge several key assumptions made in moving from this appeal to ethnography to conclusions about kinship and progeneration, arguing that closer scrutiny of both the ethnographic record and inferences that draw on it in fact support progenerative views of both kinship and kinmaking. (shrink)
A far-reaching and influential view in evolutionary biology claims that species are cohesive units held together by gene flow. Biologists have recognized empirical problems facing this view; after sharpening the expression of the view, we present novel conceptual problems for it. At the heart of these problems is a distinction between two importantly different concepts of cohesion, what we call integrative and response cohesion. Acknowledging the distinction problematizes both the explanandum of species cohesion and the explanans of gene flow that (...) are central to the view we discuss. We conclude by tracing four broader implications for the study and conceptualization of species. (shrink)
This paper attempts to do two things. First, it recounts the problem of intentionality, as it has typically been conceptualized, and argues that it needs to be reconceptualized in light of the radical form of externalism most commonly referred to as the extended mind thesis. Second, it provides an explicit, novel argument for that thesis, what I call the argument from meaning making, and offers some defense of that argument. This second task occupies the core of the paper, and in (...) completing it I distinguish _active _ _cognition_ from _cyborg fantasy arguments_ for externalism, and develop the analogy between the extended mind thesis in the cognitive sciences and developmental systems theory in developmental biology. The rethinking of the problem of intentionality on offer leads not so much to a solution as to a dissolution of that problem, as traditionally conceived. (shrink)
Philosophical exploration of individualism and externalism in the cognitive sciences most recently has been focused on general evaluations of these two views (Adams & Aizawa 2008, Rupert 2008, Wilson 2004, Clark 2008). Here we return to broaden an earlier phase of the debate between individualists and externalists about cognition, one that considered in detail particular theories, such as those in developmental psychology (Patterson 1991) and the computational theory of vision (Burge 1986, Segal 1989). Music cognition is an area in the (...) cognitive sciences that has received little attention from philosophers, though it has relatively recently been thrown into the externalist spotlight (Cochrane 2008, Kruger 2014, Kersten forthcoming). Given that individualism can be thought of as a kind of paradigm for research on cognition, we provide a brief overview of the field of music cognition and individualistic tendencies within the field (sections 2 and 3) before turning to consider externalist alternatives to individualistic paradigms (section 4-5) and then arguing for a qualified form of externalism about music cognition (section 6). (shrink)
In this article, I reconsider bio-essentialism in the study of kinship, centering on David Schneider’s influential critique that concluded that kinship was “a non-subject” (1972:51). Schneider’s critique is often taken to have shown the limitations of and problems with past views of kinship based on biology, genealogy, and reproduction, a critique that subsequently led those reworking kinship as relatedness in the new kinship studies to view their enterprise as divorced from such bio-essentialist studies. Beginning with an alternative narrative connecting kinship (...) past and present and concluding by introducing a novel way of thinking about kinship, I have three constituent aims in this research article: (1) to reconceptualize the relationship between kinship past and kinship present; (2) to reevaluate Schneider’s critique of bio-essentialism and what this implies for the contemporary study of kinship; and (3) subsequently to redirect theoretical discussion of what kinship is. This concluding discussion introduces a general view, the homeostatic property cluster (HPC) view of kinds, into anthropology, providing a theoretical framework that facilitates realization of the often-touted desideratum of the integration of biological and social features of kinship. [bio-essentialism, kinship studies, homeostatic property cluster kinds, Schneider, genealogy]. (shrink)
Cognition is embodied when it is deeply dependent upon features of the physical body of an agent, that is, when aspects of the agent's body beyond the brain play a significant causal or physically constitutive role in cognitive processing. In general, dominant views in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science have considered the body as peripheral to understanding the nature of mind and cognition. Proponents of embodied cognitive science view this as a serious mistake. Sometimes the nature of the (...) dependence of cognition on the body is quite unexpected, and suggests new ways of conceptualizing and exploring the mechanics of cognitive processing. Embodied cognitive science encompasses a loose-knit family of research programs in the cognitive sciences that often share a commitment to critiquing and even replacing traditional approaches to cognition and cognitive processing. Empirical research on embodied cognition has exploded in the past 10 years. As the bibliography for this article attests, the various bodies of work that will be discussed represent a serious alternative to the investigation of cognitive phenomena. Relatively recent work on the embodiment of cognition provides much food for thought for empirically-informed philosophers of mind. This is in part because of the rich range of phenomena that embodied cognitive science has studied. But it is also in part because those phenomena are often thought to challenge dominant views of the mind, such as the computational and representational theories of mind, at the heart of traditional cognitive science. And they have sometimes been taken to undermine standard positions in the philosophy of mind, such as the idea that the mind is identical to, or even realized in, the brain. (shrink)
Vision constitutes an interesting domain, or range of domains, for debate over the extended mind thesis, the idea that minds physically extend beyond the boundaries of the body. In part this is because vision and visual experience more particularly are sometimes presented as a kind of line in the sand for what we might call externalist creep about the mind: once all reasonable concessions have been made to externalists about the mind, visual experience marks a line beyond which lies a (...) safe haven for individualists. Here I want to put a little more pressure on such a view of visual experience, as well as to offer a more constructive, positive argument in defense of the idea of extended vision. (shrink)
This paper argues that the metarepresentational systems we posses are wide or extended, rather than individualistic. There are two basic ideas. The first is that metarepresentation inherits its width from the mental representation of its objects. The second is that mental processing often operates on internal and external symbols, and this suggests that cognitive systems extend beyond the heads that house them.
This afterword to Species and Beyond provides some reflections on species, with special attention to what I think the most significant developments have been in the thinking of biologists and philosophers working on species over the past 25 years, as well as some bad jokes.
The impressive variation amongst biological individuals generates many complexities in addressing the simple-sounding question what is a biological individual? A distinction between evolutionary and physiological individuals is useful in thinking about biological individuals, as is attention to the kinds of groups, such as superorganisms and species, that have sometimes been thought of as biological individuals. More fully understanding the conceptual space that biological individuals occupy also involves considering a range of other concepts, such as life, reproduction, and agency. There has (...) been a focus in some recent discussions by both philosophers and biologists on how evolutionary individuals are created and regulated, as well as continuing work on the evolution of individuality. (shrink)
This volume of twelve specially commissioned essays about species draws on the perspectives of prominent researchers from anthropology , botany, developmental psychology , the philosophy of biology and science, protozoology, and zoology . The concept of species has played a focal role in both evolutionary biology and the philosophy of biology , and the last decade has seen something of a publication boom on the topic (e.g., Otte and Endler 1989; Ereshefsky 1992b; Paterson 1994; lambert and Spence 1995; Claridge, Dawah, (...) and Wilson 1997; Wheeler and Meier 1999; Howard and Berlocher 1998). (shrink)
Projects of human improvement take both individual and intergenerational forms. The biosciences provide many technologies, including prenatal screening and the latest gene editing techniques, such as CRISPR, that have been viewed as providing the means to human improvement across generations. But who is fit to furnish the next generation? Historically, eugenics epitomizes the science-based attempt to improve human society through distinguishing kinds of people and then implementing social policies—from immigration restriction to sexual sterilization and euthanasia—that influence and even direct what (...) sorts of people populate our future. Despite recognition of the horrors of the eugenic extremes of the past and of the subhumanizing of those sufficiently below appearance or ability norms to be viewed as “defective” or “unfit”, many people continue to be drawn to strands of eugenic thinking. (shrink)
This paper is a critical discussion of John Dupré's recent defence of promiscuous realism in Part 1 of his The Disorder of Things: Metaphysical Foundations of the Disunity of Science. It also discusses some more general issues in the philosophy of biology and science. Dupré's chief strategy of argumentation appeals to debates within the philosophy of biology, all of which concern the nature of species. While the strategy is well motivated, I argue that Dupré's challenge to essentialist and unificationist views (...) about natural kinds is not successful. One conclusion is that an integrative conception of species is a real alternative to Dupré's pluralism. (shrink)
We introduce two notions–the shadows and the shallows of explanation–in opening up explanation to broader, interdisciplinary investigation. The shadows of explanation refer to past philosophical efforts to provide either a conceptual analysis of explanation or in some other way to pinpoint the essence of explanation. The shallows of explanation refer to the phenomenon of having surprisingly limited everyday, individual cognitive abilities when it comes to explanation. Explanations are ubiquitous, but they typically are not accompanied by the depth that we might, (...) prima facie, expect. We explain the existence of the shadows and shallows of explanation in terms of there being a theoretical abyss between explanation and richer, theoretical structures that are often attributed to people. We offer an account of the shallows, in particular, both in terms of shorn-down, internal, mental machinery, and in terms of an enriched, public symbolic environment, relative to the currently dominant ways of thinking about cognition and the world. (shrink)
I think there is something to be said in a positive and constructive vein about collective intentionality in non-human animals. Doing so involves probing at the concept of collective intentionality fairly directly (Section 2), considering the various forms that collective intentionality might take (Section 3), showing some sensitivity to the history of appeals to that concept and its close relatives (Section 4), and raising some broader questions about the relationships between sociality, cognition, and institutions by discussing two different possible cases (...) of collective intentionality in non-human animals: that of the social insects (Section 5) and that of highly social mammals, such as canines (Section 6). If the discussion here is on track, then the widely shared perspective on collective intentionality exemplified by the work of Searle and Tomasello needs to be reconsidered. (shrink)
This article defends a version of the Westermarck Effect, integrating existing clinical, biological, and philosophical dimensions to incest avoidance. By focusing on care-based attachment in primates, my formulation of the effect suggests the power of a phylogenetic argument widely accepted by primatologists but not by cultural anthropologists. Identifying postadoption incest as a phenomenon with underexplored evidential value, the article sketches an explanatory strategy for reconciling the effect with the clinical reality of incest, concluding with an explicit argument against culture-first or (...) conventionalist accounts of incest avoidance prevalent in anthropology. (shrink)
For the greater part of the last 50 years, it has been common for philosophers of mind and cognitive scientists to invoke the notion of realization in discussing the relationship between the mind and the brain. In traditional philosophy of mind, mental states are said to be realized, instantiated, or implemented in brain states. Artificial intelligence is sometimes described as the attempt either to model or to actually construct systems that realize some of the same psychological abilities that we and (...) other living creatures possess. The claim that specific psychological. (shrink)
Despite the fact that the history of eugenics in Canada is necessarily part of the larger history of eugenics, there is a special role for oral history to play in the telling of this story, a role that promises to shift us from the muddled middle of the story. Not only has the testimony of eugenics survivors already played perhaps the most important role in revealing much about the practice of eugenics in Canada, but the willingness and ability of survivors (...) to share their own oral histories makes the situation in western Canada almost unique. Conversely, I also discuss the role that oral history plays in “surviving a eugenic past”, trading on the ambiguity of this phrase to reflect both on the survivorship of those who have been viewed as subhuman via some kind of eugenic lens and on the collective legacy with which Canada’s eugenic past presents us. (shrink)
Are materially constituted entities, such as statues and glasses of liquid, something more than their material constituents? The puzzle that frames this paper stems from conflicting answers to this question. At the core of the paper is a distinctive way of thinking about material constitution that posits two concepts of constitution, compositional and ampliative constitution, with the bulk of the discussion devoted to developing distinct analyses for these concepts. Distinguishing these concepts solves our initial puzzle and enriches the space of (...) possibilities for constitution views. (shrink)
In metaphysics, the view that material constitution is transitive is ubiquitous, an assumption expressed by both proponents and critics of constitution views. Likewise, it is typically assumed within the philosophy of mind that physical realization is a transitive relation. In both cases, this assumption of transitivity plays a role in discussion of the broader implications of a metaphysics that invokes either relation. Here I provide reasons for questioning this assumption and the uses to which this appeal to transitivity is put. (...) As my title suggests, I shall focus on the case of material constitution, using a brief discussion of realization at the outset to motivate the discussion of the transitivity of material constitution at the core of the paper. (shrink)
David Sloan Wilson has recently revived the idea of a group mind as an application of group selectionist thinking to cognition. Central to my discussion of this idea is the distinction between the claim that groups have a psychology and what I call the social manifestation thesis-a thesis about the psychology of individuals. Contemporary work on this topic has confused these two theses. My discussion also points to research questions and issues that Wilson's work raises, as well as their connection (...) to externalist conceptions of the mind familiar since the work of Putnam and Burge. (shrink)