Steps to an Ecology of Knowledge: Continuity and Change in the Genealogy of Knowledge

Episteme 8 (1):67-82 (2011)
The present paper argues for a more complete integration between recent "genealogical" approaches to the problem of knowledge and evolutionary accounts of the development of human cognitive capacities and practices. A structural tension is pointed out between, on the one hand, the fact that the explicandum of genealogical stories is a specifically human trait and, on the other hand, the tacit acknowledgment, shared by all contributors to the debate, that human beings have evolved from non-human beings. Since humans differ from their predecessors in more ways than just the lack of a particular concept or cognitive ability, this casts doubt on the widely shared assumption (the "Constancy Assumption") that, when constructing a genealogical narrative for a particular concept (e.g., our contemporary concept of knowledge), it is permissible to hold all other factors (e.g., individual "on-board" cognitive capacities) fixed. What is needed instead, I argue, is an ecological perspective that views knowledge as an adaptive response to an evolutionary constellation that allows for a diversity of selective pressures. Several examples of specific conceptual pressures at different stages in human evolution are discussed.
Keywords Knowledge  Genealogy  Evolutionary epistemology
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    References found in this work BETA
    Peter Carruthers (2003). On Fodor's Problem. Mind and Language 18 (5):502-523.
    Edward Craig (1986). The Practical Explication of Knowledge. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 87:211 - 226.

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