Locke & Bogin (L&B) rightly point to the absence of ontogeny in theories of language evolution. However, they overly rely upon ontogenetic data to isolate components of the language faculty. Only an adaptationist analysis, of the sort seen in evolutionary psychology, can carve language at its joints and lead to testable predictions about how language works.
Andrews et al. present a form of instrumental adaptationism that is designed to test the hypothesis that a given trait is an adaptation. This epistemological commitment aims to make clear statements about behavioural natural kinds. The instrumental logic is sound, but it is the limits of our empirical imagination that can cause problems for theory construction.
Jablonka & Lamb (J&L) have presented a number of different possible mechanisms for finessing design. The extra-genetic nature of these mechanisms has led them to challenge orthodox neo-Darwinian views. However, these mechanisms are for calibration and have been designed by natural selection. As such, they add detail to our knowledge, but neo-Darwinism is sufficiently resourced to account for them.
Yarkoni makes a number of valid points in his critical analysis of psychology, but he misses an opportunity to expose the root of its problems. That root is the poor practice around the derivation of explanatory constructs. We make comment on this with an example from behaviorist history and relate this to the recent discussion of scientific understanding in the philosophy of science.
Social constructionism is a broad position that emphasizes the importance of human social processes in psychology. These processes are generally associated with language and the ability to construct stories that conform to the emergent rules of "language games". This view allows one to espouse a variety of critical postures with regard to realist commitments within the social and behavioural sciences, ranging from outright relativism to a more moderate respect for the "barrier" that linguistic descriptions can place between us and reality. (...) This paper first outlines some possible social construction-ist viewpoints and then goes on to show how each of them conforms to the basic principles of information theory. After establishing this relation the paper then argues that this leads to a great deal of commonality between social construction-ist positions and the baseline aims of cognitive science. Finally, the paper argues that, if information theory is held in common, this both suggests future research collaborations and helps to "mop up" some of the arguments surrounding realist commitments. (shrink)
Deacon presents a fascinating model that adds to explanations of the origins of life from physical matter. Deacon’s paper owes much to the work of Howard Pattee, who saw semiotic relations in informational terms, and Deacon binds his model to criticism of current information concepts in biology which he sees as semantically inadequate. In this commentary I first outline the broader project from Pattee, and then I present a cybernetic perspective on information. My claim is that this view of information (...) is already present within biology and provides what Deacon seeks. (shrink)
Schmitt has equivocated about the underlying psychology of sociosexuality, but from the data presented in the target article, it would appear that he has drawn out the underlying cognitive architecture. In this commentary, I describe this architecture and discuss two emerging hypotheses about heterosexual and homosexual male sociosexuality.
This commentary takes issue with Corballis's claim to have presented a falsifiable hypothesis. It argues that Corballis has instead presented a framework of weak inferences that, although unfalsifiable, might help to constrain future theory-building.
Human beings persist in an extraordinary range of ecological settings, in the process exhibiting enormous behavioural diversity, both within and between populations. People vary in their social, mating and parental behaviour and have diverse and elaborate beliefs, traditions, norms and institutions. The aim of this theme issue is to ask whether, and how, evolutionary theory can help us to understand this diversity. In this introductory article, we provide a background to the debate surrounding how best to understand behavioural diversity using (...) evolutionary models of human behaviour. In particular, we examine how diversity has been viewed by the main subdisciplines within the human evolutionary behavioural sciences, focusing in particular on the human behavioural ecology, evolutionary psychology and cultural evolution approaches. In addition to differences in focus and methodology, these subdisciplines have traditionally varied in the emphasis placed on human universals, ecological factors and socially learned behaviour, and on how they have addressed the issue of genetic variation. We reaffirm that evolutionary theory provides an essential framework for understanding behavioural diversity within and between human populations, but argue that greater integration between the subfields is critical to developing a satisfactory understanding of diversity. (shrink)
Niche construction refers to the activities of organisms that bring about changes in their environments, many of which are evolutionarily and ecologically consequential. Advocates of niche construction theory (NCT) believe that standard evolutionary theory fails to recognize the full importance of niche construction, and consequently propose a novel view of evolution, in which niche construction and its legacy over time (ecological inheritance) are described as evolutionary processes, equivalent in importance to natural selection. Here, we subject NCT to critical evaluation, in (...) the form of a collaboration between one prominent advocate of NCT, and a team of skeptics. We discuss whether niche construction is an evolutionary process, whether NCT obscures or clarifies how natural selection leads to organismal adaptation, and whether niche construction and natural selection are of equivalent explanatory importance. We also consider whether the literature that promotes NCT overstates the significance of niche construction, whether it is internally coherent, and whether it accurately portrays standard evolutionary theory. Our disagreements reflect a wider dispute within evolutionary theory over whether the neo-Darwinian synthesis is in need of reformulation, as well as different usages of some key terms (e.g., evolutionary process). (shrink)
In this commentary we outline perceptual control theory and suggest this as a fruitful way for Lee and Schwarz to fully embody their account of cleansing behavior. Moreover, we take issue with the command control approach that L&S have taken seeing this as an unnecessary cognitive commitment within an embodied model of cleansing behavior.
Coall & Hertwig (C&H) demonstrate the importance of grandparents to children, even in low fertility societies. We suggest policy-makers interested in reproductive timing in such contexts should be alerted to the practical applications of this cooperative breeding framework. The presence or absence of a supportive kin network could help explain why some women begin their reproductive careers or.
Over the last three decades, the application of evolutionary theory to the human sciences has shown remarkable growth. This growth has also been characterised by a ‘splitting’ process, with the emergence of distinct sub-disciplines, most notably: Human Behavioural Ecology (HBE), Evolutionary Psychology (EP) and studies of Cultural Evolution (CE). Multiple applications of evolutionary ideas to the human sciences are undoubtedly a good thing, demonstrating the usefulness of this approach to human affairs. Nevertheless, this fracture has been associated with considerable tension, (...) a lack of integration, and sometimes outright conflict between researchers. In recent years however, there have been clear signs of hope that a synthesis of the human evolutionary behavioural sciences is underway. Here, we briefly review the history of the debate, both its theoretical and practical causes; then provide evidence that the field is currently becoming more integrated, as the traditional boundaries between sub-disciplines become blurred. This article constitutes the first paper under the new editorship of the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, which aims to further this integration by explicitly providing a forum for integrated work. (shrink)
This stimulating collection of essays in ethics eschews the simple exposition and refinement of abstract theories. Rather, the author focuses on everyday moral issues, often neglected by philosophers, and explores the deeper theoretical questions which they raise. Such issues are: Is it wrong to tell a lie to protect someone from a painful truth? Should one commit a lesser evil to prevent another from doing something worse? Can one be both autonomous and compassionate? Other topics discussed are servility, weakness of (...) will, suicide, obligations to oneself, snobbery, and environmental concerns. A feature of the collection is the contrast of Kantian and utilitarian answers to these problems. The essays are crisply and lucidly written and will appeal to both teachers and students of philosophy. (shrink)
Thomas E. Hill, Jr., interprets and extends Kant's moral theory in a series of essays that highlight its relevance to contemporary ethics. He introduces the major themes of Kantian ethics and explores its practical application to questions about revolution, prison reform, and forcible interventions in other countries for humanitarian purposes.
Thomas Hill, a leading figure in the recent development of Kantian moral philosophy, presents a set of essays exploring the implications of basic Kantian ideas for practical issues. The first part of the book provides background in central themes in Kant's ethics; the second part discusses questions regarding human welfare; the third focuses on moral worth-the nature and grounds of moral assessment of persons as deserving esteem or blame. Hill shows moral, political, and social philosophers just how valuable moral (...) theory can be in addressing practical matters. (shrink)
Respect, Pluralism, and Justice is a series of essays which sketches a broadly Kantian framework for moral deliberation, and then uses it to address important social and political issues. Hill shows how Kantian theory can be developed to deal with questions about cultural diversity, punishment, political violence, responsibility for the consequences of wrongdoing, and state coercion in a pluralistic society.
In this paper we propose a formal theory of partitions (ways of dividing up or sorting or mapping reality) and we show how the theory can be applied in the geospatial domain. We characterize partitions at two levels: as systems of cells (theory A), and in terms of their projective relation to reality (theory B). We lay down conditions of well-formedness for partitions and we define what it means for partitions to project truly onto reality. We continue by classifying well-formed (...) partitions along three axes: (a) degree of correspondence between partition cells and objects in reality; (b) degree to which a partition represents the mereological structure of the domain it is projected onto; and (c) degree of completeness and exhaustiveness with which a partition represents reality. This classification is used to characterize three types of partitions that play an important role in spatial information science: cadastral partitions, categorical coverages, and the partitions involved in folk categorizations of the geospatial domain. (shrink)
Thinking on Screen: Film as Philosophy is an accessible and thought-provoking examination of the way films raise and explore complex philosophical ideas. Written in a clear and engaging style, Thomas Wartenberg examines films’ ability to discuss, and even criticize ideas that have intrigued and puzzled philosophers over the centuries such as the nature of personhood, the basis of morality, and epistemological skepticism. Beginning with a demonstration of how specific forms of philosophical discourse are presented cinematically, Wartenberg moves on to (...) offer a systematic account of the ways in which specific films undertake the task of philosophy. Focusing on the films The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Modern Times, The Matrix, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Third Man, The Flicker , and Empire , Wartenberg shows how these films express meaningful and pertinent philosophical ideas. This book is essential reading for students of philosophy with an interest in film, aesthetics, and film theory. It will also be of interest to film enthusiasts intrigued by the philosophical implications of film. (shrink)
Philosophers have debated for millennia about whether moral requirements are always rational to follow. The background for these debates is often what I shall call “the self-interest model.” The guiding assumption here is that the basic demand of reason, to each person, is that one must, above all, advance one's self-interest. Alternatively, debate may be framed by a related, but significantly different, assumption: the idea that the basic rational requirement is to develop and pursue a set of personal ends in (...) an informed, efficient, and coherent way, whether one's choice of ends is based on self-interested desires or not. For brevity I refer to this as “the coherence-and-efficiency model.” Advocates of both models tend to think that, while it is sufficiently clear in principle what the rational thing to do is, what remains in doubt is whether it is always rational to be moral. They typically assume that morality is concerned, entirely or primarily, with our relations to others, especially with obligations that appear to require some sacrifice or compromise with the pursuit of self-interest. (shrink)
Affirmative action programs remain controversial, I suspect, partly because the familiar arguments for and against them start from significantly different moral perspectives. Thus I want to step back for a while from the details of debate about particular programs and give attention to the moral viewpoints presupposed in different types of argument. My aim, more specifically, is to compare the “messages” expressed when affirmative action is defended from different moral perspectives. Exclusively forward-looking arguments, I suggest, tend to express the wrong (...) message, but this is also true of exclusively backward-looking arguments. However, a moral outlook that focuses on cross-temporal narrative values suggests a more appropriate account of what affirmative action should try to express. Assessment of the message, admittedly, is only one aspect of a complex issue, but it is a relatively neglected one. My discussion takes for granted some common-sense ideas about the communicative function of action, and so I begin with these. Actions, as the saying goes, often speak louder than words. There are times, too, when only actions can effectively communicate the message we want to convey and times when giving a message is a central part of the purpose of action. What our actions say to others depends largely, though not entirely, upon our avowed reasons for acting; and this is a matter for reflective decision, not something we discover later by looking back at what we did and its effects. The decision is important because “the same act” can have very different consequences, depending upon how we choose to justify it. (shrink)
This essay first distinguishes different questions regarding moral objectivity and relativism and then sketches a broadly Kantian position on two of these questions. First, how, if at all, can we derive, justify, or support specific moral principles and judgments from more basic moral standards and values? Second, how, if at all, can the basic standards such as my broadly Kantian perspective, be defended? Regarding the first question, the broadly Kantian position is that from ideas in Kant's later formulations of the (...) Categorical Imperative, especially human dignity and rational autonomous law-making, we can develop an appropriate moral perspective for identifying and supporting more specific principles. Both the deliberative perspective and the derivative principles can be viewed as “constructed,” but in different senses. In response to the second question, the essay examines two of Kant's strategies for defending his basic perspective and the important background of his arguments against previous moral theories. (shrink)
Epistemology, as I understand it, is a branch of philosophy especially concerned with general questions about how we can know various things or at least justify our beliefs about them. It questions what counts as evidence and what are reasonable sources of doubt. Traditionally, episte-mology focuses on pervasive and apparently basic assumptions covering a wide range of claims to knowledge or justified belief rather than very specific, practical puzzles. For example, traditional epistemologists ask “How do we know there are material (...) objects?” and not “How do you know which are the female beetles?” Similarly, moral epistemology, as I understand it, is concerned with general questions about how we can know or justify our beliefs about moral matters. Its focus, again, is on quite general, pervasive, and apparently basic assumptions about what counts as evidence, what are reasonable sources of doubt, and what are the appropriate procedures for justifying particular moral claims. (shrink)
Big Ideas for Little Kids includes everything a teacher, a parent, or a college student needs to teach philosophy to elementary school children from picture books. Written in a clear and accessible style, the book explains why it is important to allow young children access to philosophy during primary-school education. Wartenberg also gives advice on how to construct a "learner-centered" classroom, in which children discuss philosophical issues with one another as they respond to open-ended questions by saying whether they agree (...) or disagree with what others have said. (shrink)
A central focus of care ethics is on the compelling moral salience of attending to the needs of our particular others. However, there is no consensus within the care literature for how and when such partiality is morally justified. This article outlines and defends a novel justificatory argument that grounds partiality in the facts and values of the relation itself. Specifically, this article argues that partiality is justified when grounded in caring values exemplified in good caring relations. Hence, this justification (...) is termed the argument from good caring relations. This justification is promising for two reasons. First, the argument from good caring relations has the potential to spur engagement between care ethics and the broader partiality literature. In particular, the argument from good caring relations could enhance what Simon Keller has termed ‘the relationships view’. Second, the argument from good caring relations is more persuasive than the other major justificatory argument for partiality presently in the care literature: a distributive argument, which takes the form of a modified version of Robert Goodin’s assigned responsibility model of moral obligation. Indeed, where this distributive argument fails, the argument from good caring relation succeeds. This article thus concludes that the argument from good caring relations is preferable for justifying partiality in care ethics. (shrink)
Ancient moral philosophers, especially Aristotle and his followers, typically shared the assumption that ethics is primarily concerned with how to achieve the final end for human beings, a life of “happiness” or “human flourishing.” This final end was not a subjective condition, such as contentment or the satisfaction of our preferences, but a life that could be objectively determined to be appropriate to our nature as human beings. Character traits were treated as moral virtues because they contributed well toward this (...) ideal life, either as means to it or as constitutive aspects of it. Traits that tended to prevent a “happy” life were considered vices, even if they contributed to a life that was pleasant and what a person most wanted. The idea of “happiness” was central, then, in philosophical efforts to specify what we ought to do, what sort of persons we should try to become, and what sort of life a wise person would hope for. (shrink)
Immanuel Kant is known for his ideas about duty and morally worthy acts, but his conception of virtue is less familiar. Nevertheless Kant’s understanding of virtue is quite distinctive and has considerable merit compared to the most familiar conceptions. Kant also took moral education seriously, writing extensively on both the duty of adults to cultivate virtue and the empirical conditions to prepare children for this life-long responsibility. Our aim is, first, to explain Kant’s conception of virtue, second, to highlight some (...) distinctive and potentially appealing features of the Kantian account of virtue, third, to summarize and explain Kant’s prescriptions for educating young children and youth as well as the duty of moral self-improvement that he attributes to all adults, and, fourth, to respond to some common objections that we regard as misguided or insubstantial. (shrink)
_Taking Picture Books Seriously: What can we learn about philosophy through children's books?_ This warm and charming volume casts a spell on adult readers as it unveils the surprisingly profound philosophical wisdom contained in children's picture books, from Dr Seuss's _Sneetches_ to William Steig's _Shrek!_. With a light touch and good humor, Wartenberg discusses the philosophical ideas in these classic stories, and provides parents with a practical starting point for discussing philosophical issues with their children. Accessible and multi-layered, it answers (...) questions like, Is it okay for adults to deceive kids? What's the difference between saying the Mona Lisa is a great painting and vanilla is your favorite flavor? Each chapter includes illustrations commissioned especially for this book. (shrink)
Deep brain stimulation to different sites allows interfering with dysfunctional network function implicated in major depression. Because a prominent clinical feature of depression is anhedonia--the inability to experience pleasure from previously pleasurable activities--and because there is clear evidence of dysfunctions of the reward system in depression, DBS to the nucleus accumbens might offer a new possibility to target depressive symptomatology in otherwise treatment-resistant depression. Three patients suffering from extremely resistant forms of depression, who did not respond to pharmacotherapy, psychotherapy, and (...) electroconvulsive therapy, were implanted with bilateral DBS electrodes in the nucleus accumbens. Stimulation parameters were modified in a double-blind manner, and clinical ratings were assessed at each modification. Additionally, brain metabolism was assessed 1 week before and 1 week after stimulation onset. Clinical ratings improved in all three patients when the stimulator was on, and worsened in all three patients when the stimulator was turned off. Effects were observable immediately, and no side effects occurred in any of the patients. Using FDG-PET, significant changes in brain metabolism as a function of the stimulation in fronto-striatal networks were observed. No unwanted effects of DBS other than those directly related to the surgical procedure were observed. Dysfunctions of the reward system--in which the nucleus accumbens is a key structure--are implicated in the neurobiology of major depression and might be responsible for impaired reward processing, as evidenced by the symptom of anhedonia. These preliminary findings suggest that DBS to the nucleus accumbens might be a hypothesis-guided approach for refractory major depression. (shrink)