Robert A. Wilson University of Alberta
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  • Faculty, University of Alberta
  • PhD, Cornell University, 1992.

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About me
Born in the thriving bush metropolis of Broken Hill in western New South Wales, and having thwarted all attempts at education there and on the sandy beaches of Perth, I have been in exile in North America for most of the past 20 years, creeping slowly but surely west-northwest during that time, my own version of continental drift. I teach at the University of Alberta, founded Philosophy for Children Alberta in 2008, finishing my role as its director in 2015, and recently led a large-scale, CURA-funded research project, "Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada" (2010-2015), directing about 80 researchers, students, and community members and building a sizeable set of instructional and public educational resources at www.eugenicsarchive.ca .
My works
83 items found.
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  1.  1
    Robert A. Wilson & Joshua St Pierre, Eugenics and Disability.
    In the intersection between eugenics past and present, disability has never been far beneath the surface. Perceived and ascribed disabilities of body and mind were one of the core sets of eugenics traits that provided the basis for institutionalized and sterilization on eugenic grounds for the first 75 years of the 20th-century. Since that time, the eugenic preoccupation with the character of future generations has seeped into what have become everyday practices in the realm of reproductive choice. As Marsha Saxton (...)
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  2.  3
    Robert A. Wilson (forthcoming). Thinking About Relations: Strathern, Sahlins, and Locke on Anthropological Knowledge. Anthropological Theory.
    John Locke is known within anthropology primarily for his empiricism, his views of natural laws, and his discussion of the state of nature and the social contract. Marilyn Strathern and Marshall Sahlins, however, have offered distinctive, novel, and broad reflections on the nature of anthropological knowledge that appeal explicitly to a lesser-known aspect of Locke’s work: his metaphysical views of relations. This paper examines their distinctive conclusions – Sahlins’ about cultural relativism, Strathern’s about relatives and kinship – both of which (...)
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  3.  5
    Luke Kersten & Robert A. Wilson (2016). The Sound of Music, Externalist Style. American Philosophical Quarterly 53 (2):139-154.
    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 (...)
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  4.  12
    Robert A. Wilson (2016). Kinship Past, Kinship Present: Bio-Essentialism in the Study of Kinship. American Anthropologist 118 (3).
    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 (...)
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  5.  10
    Robert A. Wilson (2016). Kinship Past, Kinship Present. American Anthropologist 118 (3).
    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 (...)
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  6.  21
    Robert A. Wilson (2016). Primary and Secondary Qualities. In Matthew Stuart (ed.), A Companion to Locke. Blackwell 193-211.
    The first half of this review article on Locke on primary and secondary qualities leads up to a fairly straightforward reading of what Locke says about the distinction in Essay II.viii, one that, in its general outlines, represents a sympathetic understanding of Locke’s discussion. The second half of the paper turns to consider a few of the ways in which interpreting Locke on primary and secondary qualities has proven more complicated. Here we take up what is sometimes called the Berkeleyan (...)
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  7.  5
    Susan Schweik & Robert A. Wilson, Ugly Laws. Eugenics Archives.
    So-called “ugly laws” were mostly municipal statutes in the United States that outlawed the appearance in public of people who were, in the words of one of these laws, “diseased, maimed, mutilated, or in any way deformed, so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object” (Chicago City Code 1881). Although the moniker “ugly laws” was coined to refer collectively to such ordinances only in 1975 (Burgdorf and Burgdorf 1975), it has become the primary way to refer to such laws, (...)
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  8.  77
    Robert A. Wilson (2015). The Role of Oral History in Surviving a Eugenic Past. In Steven High (ed.), Beyond Testimony and Trauma: Oral History in the Aftermath of Mass Violence. 119-138.
    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 (...)
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  9.  9
    Robert A. Wilson, Eugenics as Wrongful. Eugenics Archives.
    In a landmark legal case in 1996, eugenics survivor Leilani Muir successfully sued the province of Alberta for wrongful confinement and sterilization. The legal finding implied that Ms. Muir should never have been institutionalized at the Provincial Training School of Alberta as a “moron” and sterilized under the Sexual Sterilization Act of Alberta. The trial itself revealed many unsettling features of the province’s practice of eugenics, raising questions about how a seemingly large number of people, like Ms. Muir, who were (...)
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  10.  4
    Robert A. Wilson, Eugenics: Positive Vs Negative. Eugenics Archives.
    The distinction between positive and negative eugenics is perhaps the best-known distinction that has been made between forms that eugenics takes. Roughly, positive eugenics refers to efforts aimed at increasing desirable traits, while negative eugenics refers to efforts aimed at decreasing undesirable traits. Still, it is easy to fall into confusion in drawing and deploying the distinction in particular contexts. Clarity here is important not only historically, but also for appeals to the distinction in contemporary discussions of “new eugenics” or (...)
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  11.  1
    Robert A. Wilson, Eugenic Traits. Eugenics Archives.
    Certain traits, such as intelligence and mental deficiency, have been the focus of eugenic research and propaganda. This focus on such eugenic traits builds on three commonsense ideas: (1) People differ with respect to some of their traits, such as eye-colour and height; (2) Many traits run in families, being passed on from parents to their children; (3) Some traits are desirable, while others are undesirable. These three ideas about traits—their variability, heritability, and desirability—fed the much more controversial eugenicist view (...)
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  12.  2
    Robert A. Wilson, Psychology. Eugenics Archive.
    Genetics and the biological sciences are the two contemporary scientific fields most readily called to mind in thinking about science and eugenics. Yet the history of another discipline, psychology, is enmeshed more intricately with eugenics than are the histories of either genetics or even the biological sciences more generally. This is true of the history of eugenics in Canada. Moreover, continuities in the roles that psychology plays in how we think about sorts of people and their ability and right to (...)
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  13.  5
    Robert A. Wilson, Sociobiology. Eugenics Archives.
    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 (...)
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  14.  4
    Robert A. Wilson, Roles of Science in Eugenics. Eugenics Archives.
    The relationship of eugenics to science is intricate and many-layered, starting with Sir Francis Galton’s original definition of eugenics as “the science of improving stock”. Eugenics was originally conceived of not only as a science by many of its proponents, but as a new, meliorative science emerging from findings of a range of nascent sciences, including anthropology and criminology in the late 19th-century, and genetics and psychiatry in the early 20th-century. Although during the years between the two World Wars many (...)
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  15.  75
    Robert A. Wilson (2014). Ten Questions Concerning Extended Cognition. Philosophical Psychology 27 (1):19-33.
    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. (...)
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  16. Robert A. Wilson & Bartlomiej Lenart (2014). Extended Mind and Identity. In Jens Clausen & Neil Levy (eds.), Handbook of Neuroethics. Springer 423-439.
    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 (...)
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  17.  13
    Robert A. Wilson (2013). Extended Artistic Appreciation. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 36 (2):162-163.
    I propose that in at least some cases, objects of artistic appreciation are best thought of not simply as causes of artistic appreciation, but as parts of the cognitive machinery that drives aesthetic appreciation. In effect, this is to say that aesthetic appreciation operates via extended cognitive systems.
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  18.  32
    Robert A. Wilson & Matthew J. Barker, The Biological Notion of Individual. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    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 (...)
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  19.  44
    Robert A. Wilson (2012). Genes and the Agents of Life: The Individual in the Fragile Sciences Biology. Cambridge University Press.
    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 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 (...)
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  20. Robert Andrew Wilson (2012). Cartesian Psychology and Physical Minds: Individualism and the Science of the Mind. Cambridge University Press.
    This book offers a 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 (...)
     
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  21. Robert A. Wilson & Lucia Foglia (2011). Embodied Cognition. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    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 (...)
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  22. Matthew J. Barker & Robert A. Wilson (2010). Cohesion, Gene Flow, and the Nature of Species. Journal of Philosophy 107 (2):59-77.
    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 (...)
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  23.  15
    Robert A. Wilson (2010). Extended Vision. In Nivedita Gangopadhyay, Michael Madary & Finn Spicer (eds.), Perception, Action and Consciousness. Oxford University Press.
    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 (...)
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  24. Robert A. Wilson (2010). Meaning Making and the Mind of the Externalist. In Richard Menary (ed.), The Extended Mind. MIT Press 167--188.
    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 (...)
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  25.  33
    Robert A. Wilson (2010). Review of Robert D. Rupert, Cognitive Systems and the Extended Mind. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2010 (3).
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  26.  53
    Robert A. Wilson (2010). Seeing, Doing, and Knowing. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 36 (1):117-132.
    This is a critical notice of Mohan Matthen's 2005 book "Seeing, Doing, and Knowing".
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  27.  47
    Robert A. Wilson (2010). The Primal Path to Kinship: A Critical Review of Bernard Chapais, Primeval Kinship: How Pair-Bonding Gave Birth to Human Society. Biology and Philosophy 25 (1):111-123.
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  28. Robert A. Wilson (2009). The Transitivity of Material Constitution. Noûs 43 (2):363-377.
    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. (...)
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  29. Robert A. Wilson & Andy Clark (2009). How to Situate Cognition: Letting Nature Take its Course. In Murat Aydede & P. Robbins (eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Situated Cognition. Cambridge 55--77.
    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.
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  30. Amanda Barnier, John Sutton, Celia Harris & Robert A. Wilson (2008). A Conceptual and Empirical Framework for the Social Distribution of Cognition: The Case of Memory. Cognitive Systems Research 9 (1):33-51.
    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 (...)
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  31.  51
    Robert A. Wilson (2008). Material Constitution and the Many-Many Problem. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 38 (2):pp. 201-217.
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  32. Robert A. Wilson (2008). What Computers (Still, Still) Can't Do: Jerry Fodor on Computation and Modularity. In Robert J. Stainton (ed.), New Essays in Philosophy of Language and Mind. University of Calgary Press 407-425.
    Fodor's thinking on modularity has been influential throughout a range of the areas studying cognition, chiefly as a prod for positive work on modularity and domain-specificity. In The Mind Doesn't Work That Way, Fodor has developed the dark message of The Modularity of Mind regarding the limits to modularity and computational analyses. This paper offers a critical assessment of Fodor's scepticism with an eye to highlighting some broader issues in play, including the nature of computation and the role of recent (...)
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  33. Robert A. Wilson (2008). The Drink You Have When You're Not Having a Drink. Mind and Language 23 (3):273–283.
    The Architecture of the Mind is itself built on foundations that deserve probing. In this brief commentary I focus on these foundations—Carruthers’ conception of modularity, his arguments for thinking that the mind is massively modular in structure, and his view of human cognitive architecture.
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  34.  68
    Robert A. Wilson (2007). A Puzzle About Material Constitution and How to Solve It: Enriching Constitution Views in Metaphysics. Philosophers' Imprint 7 (5):1-20.
    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 (...)
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  35.  15
    Robert A. Wilson (2007). Bioknowledge with Burian. Biology and Philosophy 22 (1):131-139.
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  36. Robert A. Wilson, Matthew J. Barker & Ingo Brigandt (2007). When Traditional Essentialism Fails. Philosophical Topics 35 (1-2):189-215.
    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 (...)
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  37. Carl F. Craver & Robert A. Wilson (2006). Realization. In P. Thagard (ed.), Handbook of the Philosophy of Psychology and Cognitive Science. Elsevier
    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 (...)
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  38. Robert Wilson (2006). Michael Wheeler, Reconstructing the Cognitive World: The Next Step. [REVIEW] Philosophy in Review 26 (5):386-388.
     
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  39.  59
    Robert A. Wilson (2006). Critical Notice. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 36 (1):117-132.
    This is a critical notice of Mohan Matthen's 2005 book "Seeing, Doing, and Knowing".
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  40. Robert A. Wilson (2005). Collective Memory, Group Minds, and the Extended Mind Thesis. Cognitive Processing 6 (4).
    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. (...)
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  41. Robert A. Wilson (2005). Philosophy of Psychology. In Sahotra Sarkar (ed.), The Philosophy of Science: An Encyclopedia. Routledge
    In the good old days, when general philosophy of science ruled the Earth, a simple division was often invoked to talk about philosophical issues specific to particular kinds of science: that between the natural sciences and the social sciences. Over the last 20 years, philosophical studies shaped around this dichotomy have given way to those organized by more fine-grained categories, corresponding to specific disciplines, as the literatures on the philosophy of physics, biology, economics and psychology--to take the most prominent four (...)
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  42. Robert A. Wilson (2005). Persons, Social Agency, and Constitution. Social Philosophy and Policy 22 (2):49-69.
    In her recent book Persons and Bodies1, Lynne Rudder Baker has defended what she calls the constitution view of persons. On this view, persons are constituted by their bodies, where “constitution” is a ubiquitous, general metaphysical relation distinct from more familiar relations, such as identity and part-whole composition.
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  43.  80
    Robert A. Wilson, Review of Derek Melser, The Act of Thinking. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
    This is a book that challenges the current orthodoxy, both in the philosophy of mind and in the cognitive sciences, that thinking (construed broadly to include perceiving, imagining, remembering, etc.) is a mental process in the head. Such a view has been largely taken for granted since the demise of behaviorism in the 1960s, and it underpins both the representational and computational theories of mind, including their connectionist and dynamicist variants. While the orthodoxy has been rejected in recent years by (...)
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  44. Robert Wilson (2004). Joseph LaPorte, Natural Kinds and Conceptual Change. [REVIEW] Philosophy in Review 24:417-420.
     
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  45.  67
    Robert A. Wilson (2004). Boundaries of the Mind: The Individual in the Fragile Sciences: Cognition. Cambridge University Press.
    Where does the mind begin and end? Robert Wilson establishes the foundations for the view that the mind extends beyond the boundary of the individual. He blends traditional philosophical analysis, cognitive science, and the history of psychology and the human sciences. Wilson then develops novel accounts of mental representation and consciousness, discussing a range of other issues, such as nativism and the idea of group minds. Boundaries of the Mind re-evaluates the place of the individual in the cognitive, biological and (...)
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  46.  74
    Robert A. Wilson (2004). Review of Laporte on Natural Kinds. [REVIEW] Philosophy in Review 24:423-426.
    Natural Kinds and Conceptual Change is a refreshingly direct book that challenges a range of orthodox views in the philosophy of science (especially biology), the philosophy of language, and metaphysics. Amongst these are the views that species are individuals rather than natural kinds; that scientists discover the essences of natural kinds; that the causal theory of reference has commonly-ascribed implications for realism and analyticity; that there is an unacceptable form of incommensurability entailed by descriptivism about reference; and that there are (...)
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  47.  65
    Robert A. Wilson (2004). Realization: Metaphysics, Mind, and Science. Philosophy of Science 71 (5):985-996.
    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 (...)
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  48.  47
    Robert A. Wilson (2004). Recent Work on Individualism in the Social, Behavioural, and Biological Sciences. Biology and Philosophy 19 (3):397-423.
    The social, behavioral, and a good chunk of the biological sciences concern the nature of individual agency, where our paradigm for an individual is a human being. Theories of economic behavior, of mental function and dysfunction, and of ontogenetic development, for example, are theories of how such individuals act, and of what internal and external factors are determinative of that action. Such theories construe individuals in distinctive ways.
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  49.  36
    Robert A. Wilson (2004). Test Cases, Resolvability, and Group Selection: A Critical Examination of the Myxoma Case. Philosophy of Science 71 (3):380-401.
    The evolution of the myxoma virus in Australia has been presented for many years as a test case for the hypothesis that group selection can function effectively `in the wild.' This paper critically examines the myxoma case, and argues that its failure as a test case for this hypothesis has broader implications for debates over the levels of selection.
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  50.  1
    Robert A. Wilson (2004). What Computations Can't Do: Jerry Fodor on Computation and Modularity. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 34 (sup1):407-425.
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  51. Robert A. Wilson (2004). What Computations (Still, Still) Can't Do. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 34 (Supplement):407-425.
    Fodor's thinking on modularity has been influential throughout a range of the areas studying cognition, chiefly as a prod for positive work on modularity and domain-specificity. In _The Mind Doesn't Work That Way_, Fodor has developed the dark message of _The Modularity of Mind_ regarding the limits to modularity and computational analyses. This paper offers a critical assessment of Fodor's scepticism with an eye to highlighting some broader issues in play, including the nature of computation and the role of recent (...)
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  52. Robert A. Wilson (2003). Intentionality and Phenomenology. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 84 (4):413-431.
  53.  33
    Robert A. Wilson (2003). Pluralism, Entwinement, and the Levels of Selection. Philosophy of Science 70 (3):531-552.
    This paper distinguishes and critiques several forms of pluralism about the levels of selection, and introduces a novel way of thinking about the biological properties and processes typically conceptualized in terms of distinct levels. In particular, "levels" should be thought of as being entwined or fused. Since the pluralism discussed is held by divergent theorists, the argument has implications for many positions in the debate over the units of selection. And since the key points on which the paper turns apply (...)
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  54. Robert A. Wilson (2002). Locke's Primary Qualities. Journal of the History of Philosophy 40 (2):201-228.
    Introduction in chapter viii of book ii of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke provides various putative lists of primary qualities. Insofar as they have considered the variation across Locke's lists at all, commentators have usually been content simply either to consider a self-consciously abbreviated list (e.g., "Size, Shape, etc.") or a composite list as the list of Lockean primary qualities, truncating such a composite list only by omitting supposedly co-referential terms. Doing the latter with minimal judgment about what (...)
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  55.  32
    Robert A. Wilson (2002). Individualism. In Stephen P. Stich & Ted A. Warfield (eds.), Blackwell Guide to Philosophy of Mind. Blackwell 256--287.
  56.  21
    Robert A. Wilson (2002). I, Primate. Biology and Philosophy 17 (2):285-299.
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  57.  18
    David L. Nanney & Robert A. Wilson (2001). Life's Early Years. Biology and Philosophy 16 (5):733-746.
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  58.  29
    Rob Wilson (2001). Rodney Cotterill, Enchanted Looms: Conscious Networks in Brains and Computers. [REVIEW] Minds and Machines 11 (3):433-437.
  59.  64
    Robert A. Wilson (2001). Group-Level Cognition. Philosophy of Science 3 (September):S262-S273.
    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 (...)
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  60.  92
    Robert A. Wilson (2001). Two Views of Realization. Philosophical Studies 104 (1):1-31.
    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 (...)
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  61.  34
    Frank C. Keil & Robert A. Wilson (2000). Explanation and Cognition. MIT Press.
    These essays draw on work in the history and philosophy of science, the philosophy of mind and language, the development of concepts in children, conceptual..
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  62. Frank C. Keil & Robert A. Wilson (2000). The Concept Concept: The Wayward Path of Cognitive Science. Mind and Language 15 (2-3):308-318.
    Critical discussion of Jerry Fodor's Concepts: Where Cognitive Science Went Wrong (1998).
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  63.  20
    Robert A. Wilson (2000). Some Problems for Alternative Individualism. Philosophy of Science 67 (4):671-679.
    This paper points to some problems for the position that D.M. Walsh calls "alternative individualism," and argues that in defending this view Walsh has omitted an important part of what separates individualists and externalists in psychology. Walsh's example of Hox gene complexes is discussed in detail to show why some sort of externalism about scientific taxonomy more generally is a more plausible view than any extant version of individualism.
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  64. Robert A. Wilson (2000). The Mind Beyond Itself. In Dan Sperber (ed.), Metarepresentations: A Multidisciplinary Perspective. Oxford University Press
    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.
     
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  65.  30
    Robert A. Wilson (1999). Species: New Interdisciplinary Essays. MIT Press.
    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.
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  66. Robert A. Wilson (1999). The Individual in Biology and Psychology. In V. Harcastle (ed.), Where Biology Meets Psychology. 355--374.
     
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  67.  78
    Robert A. Wilson & Frank C. Keil (eds.) (1999). MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences. MIT Press.
  68.  11
    Rob Wilson (1998). Symbols, Computation, and Intentionality. Philosophical Review 107 (1):120-123.
  69. Rob Wilson & Steven W. Horst (1998). Symbols, Computation, and Intentionality: A Critique of the Computational Theory of Mind. Philosophical Review 107 (1):120.
  70.  46
    Robert A. Wilson & Frank C. Keil (1998). The Shadows and Shallows of Explanation. Minds and Machines 8 (1):137-159.
    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, (...)
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  71. Alva Noe & Robert A. Wilson (1997). Cartesian Psychology and Physical Minds: Individualism and the Sciences of the Mind. Philosophical Review 106 (3):434.
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  72.  20
    Robert A. Wilson (1997). Pointers, Codes, and Embodiment. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 20 (4):757-758.
    This commentary raises three questions about the target article: What are pointers or deictic devices? Why insist on deictic codes for cognition rather than deixis simpliciter? And in what sense is cognition embodied, on this view?
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  73.  4
    Rob Wilson (1996). Physicalism: The Philosophical Foundations. Philosophical Books 37 (1):53-56.
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  74. Robert A. Wilson (1996). Promiscuous Realism. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 47 (2):303-316.
    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 (...)
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  75.  47
    Robert A. Wilson (1995). Cartesian Psychology and Physical Minds: Individualism and the Sciences of the Mind. Cambridge University Press.
    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 (...)
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  76. Rob Wilson & Philip Pettit (1994). The Common Mind: An Essay on Psychology, Society, and Politics. Philosophical Review 103 (4):715.
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  77.  36
    Robert A. Wilson (1994). Causal Depth, Theoretical Appropriateness, and Individualism in Psychology. Philosophy of Science 61 (1):55-75.
    Individualists claim that wide explanations in psychology are problematic. I argue that wide psychological explanations sometimes have greater explanatory power than individualistic explanations. The aspects of explanatory power I focus on are causal depth and theoretical appropriateness. Reflection on the depth and appropriateness of other wide explanations of behavior, such as evolutionary explanations, clarifies why wide psychological explanations sometimes have more causal depth and theoretical appropriateness than narrow psychological explanations. I also argue for the rejection of eliminative materialism.
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  78.  15
    Robert A. Wilson (1994). Hume's Theory of Moral Judgment. [REVIEW] Review of Metaphysics 48 (2):394-395.
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  79. Robert A. Wilson (1994). Wide Computationalism. Mind 103 (411):351-72.
    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.
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  80. Robert A. Wilson (1993). Against A Priori Arguments for Individualism. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 74 (1):60-79.
     
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  81.  70
    Robert A. Wilson (1992). Individualism, Causal Powers, and Explanation. Philosophical Studies 68 (2):103-39.
    This paper examines a recent, influential argument for individualism in psychology defended by Jerry Fodor and others, what I call the argument from causal powers. I argue that this argument equivocates on the crucial notion of "causal powers", and that this equivocation constitutes a deep problem for arguments of this type. Relational and individualistic taxonomies are incompatible, and it does not seem in general to be possible to factor the former into the latter. The distinction between powers and properties plays (...)
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  82. Robert Andrew Wilson (1992). Individualism, Psychological Explanation, and Mental Representation. Dissertation, Cornell University
    Individualism in psychology is the view that mental states must be individuated so as to be intrinsic to particular individuals. This view has been thought to impose an intuitive and plausible constraint on explanation in psychology. The dissertation is a sustained examination of individualism, especially with respect to its role in psychological explanation. My particular interest is in showing that individualism is not a constraint on psychology which follows from either psychology's scientific nature, or from the nature of causation or (...)
     
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  83.  18
    Stewart Candlish & Robert Wilson (1988). Moving. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 66 (2):174 – 187.
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