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Profile: Ben Jeffares (Victoria University of Wellington)
  1. Ben Jeffares (2013). Back to Australopithecus: Utilizing New Theories of Cognition to Understand the Pliocene Hominins. Biological Theory 9 (1):1-12.
    The evolution of cognition literature is dominated by views that presume the evolution of underlying neural structures. However, recent models of cognition reemphasize the role of physiological structures, development, and external resources as important components of cognition. This article argues that these alternative models of cognition challenge our understanding of human cognitive evolution. As a case study, it focuses on rehabilitating bipedalism as a crucial moment in human evolution. The australopithecines are often seen as “merely” bipedal chimpanzees, with a similar (...)
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  2. Ben Jeffares (2012). Thinking Tools: Acquired Skills, Cultural Niche Construction, and Thinking with Things. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 35 (4):228-229.
    The investigative strategy that Vaesen uses presumes that cognitive skills are to some extent hardwired; developmentally plastic traits would not provide the relevant comparative information. But recent views of cognition that stress external resources, and evolutionary accounts such as cultural niche construction, urge us to think carefully about the role of technology in shaping cognition.
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  3. Ben Jeffares (2010). Guessing the Future of the Past. Biology and Philosophy 25 (1):125-142.
    I review the book “Making Prehistory: Historical Science and the Scientific Realism Debate” by Derek Turner. Turner suggests that philosophers should take seriously the historical sciences such as geology when considering philosophy of science issues. To that end, he explores the scientific realism debate with the historical sciences in mind. His conclusion is a view allied to that of Arthur Fine: a view Turner calls the natural historical attitude. While I find Turner’s motivations good, I find his characterisation of the (...)
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  4. Ben Jeffares (2010). The Co-Evolution of Tools and Minds: Cognition and Material Culture in the Hominin Lineage. [REVIEW] Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 9 (4):503-520.
    The structuring of our environment to provide cues and reminders for ourselves is common: We leave notes on the fridge, we have a particular place for our keys where we deposit them, making them easy to find. We alter our world to streamline our cognitive tasks. But how did hominins gain this capacity? What pushed our ancestors to structure their physical environment in ways that buffered thinking and began the process of using the world cognitively? I argue that the capacity (...)
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  5. Ben Jeffares, The Evolution of Technical Competence: Economic and Strategic Thinking. ASCS09: Proceedings of the 9th Conference of the Australasian Society for Cognitive Science.
    This paper will outline a series of changes in the archaeological record related to Hominins. I argue that these changes underlie the emergence of the capacity for strategic thinking. The paper will start by examining the foundation of technical skills found in primates, and then work through various phases of the archaeological and paleontological record. I argue that the key driver for the development of strategic thinking was the need to expand range sizes and cope with increasingly heterogeneous environments.
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  6. Kim Sterelny & Ben Jeffares (2010). Rational Agency in Evolutionary Perspective. In Timothy O'Connor & Constantine Sandis (eds.), A Companion to the Philosophy of Action. Wiley-Blackwell.
  7. Ben Jeffares (2008). Philosophy of Archaeology. In Aviezer Tucker (ed.), The Blackwell Companion to the Philosophies of History and Historiography.
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  8. Ben Jeffares (2008). Testing Times: Confirmation in the Historical Sciences. Dissertation, Australian National University
    In this thesis, I argue that a good historical science will have the following characteristics: Firstly, it will seek to construct causal histories of the past. Secondly, the construction of these causal histories will utilise well-tested regularities of science. Additionally, well-tested regularities will secure the link between observations of physical traces and the causal events of interest. However, the historical sciences cannot use these regularities in a straightforward manner. The regularities must accommodate the idiosyncrasies of the past, and the degradation (...)
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  9. Ben Jeffares (2008). Testing Times: Regularities in the Historical Sciences. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 39 (4):469-475.
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  10. Ben Jeffares (2005). Regaining Archaeology's Nerve: Culture and Biology in Archaeological Theory. [REVIEW] Biology and Philosophy 20 (2-3):545-556.
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  11. Ben Jeffares (2004). Dead Men Telling Tales: Homo Fossils and What to Do with Them. [REVIEW] Biology and Philosophy 19 (1):159-165.
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  12. Ben Jeffares (2003). The Scope and Limits of Biological Explanations in Archaeology. Dissertation, Victoria University of Wellington
    I show how archaeologists have two problems. The construction of scenarios accounting for the raw data of Archaeology, the material remains of the past, and the explanation of pre-history. Within Archaeology, there has been an ongoing debate about how to constrain speculation within both of these archaeological projects, and archaeologists have consistently looked to biological mechanisms for constraints. I demonstrate the problems of using biology, either as an analogy for cultural processes or through direct application of biological principles to material (...)
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  13. Ben Jeffares (2002). The Explanatory Limits of Cognitive Archaeology. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 25 (3):410-412.
    I make two claims about cognitive archaeology. I question its role, seeing psychology as yet another contributor to the archaeological tool-kit rather than as something unique. I then suggest that cognitive archaeology is not in a position to provide evolutionary contexts without other disciplines. As a consequence it cannot deliver on the provision of evolutionary contexts for cognitive evolution.
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