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Profile: Stevan Harnad (Université du Québec à Montreal, University of Southampton)
  1. Stevan Harnad, Computational Hermeneutics.
    We must distinguish between what can be described or interpreted as X and what really is X. Otherwise we are just doing hermeneutics. It won't do simply to declare that the thermostat turns on the furnace because it feels cold or that the chess-playing computer program makes a move because it thinks it should get its queen out early. In what does real feeling and thinking consist?
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  2. Stevan Harnad, Experimental Analysis of Naming Behavior Cannot Explain Naming Capacity.
    The experimental analysis of naming behavior can tell us exactly the kinds of things Horne & Lowe (H & L) report here: (1) the conditions under which people and animals succeed or fail in naming things and (2) the conditions under which bidirectional associations are formed between inputs (objects, pictures of objects, seen or heard names of objects) and outputs (spoken names of objects, multimodal operations on objects). The "stimulus equivalence" that H & L single out is really just the (...)
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  3. Stevan Harnad, Fast-Forward on the Green Road to Open Access: The Case Against Mixing Up Green and Gold.
    This article is a critique of: The "Green" and "Gold" Roads to Open Access: The Case for Mixing and Matching by Jean-Claude Guédon [1].
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  4. Stevan Harnad, Grounding Symbolic Capacity in Robotic Capacity.
    According to "computationalism" (Newell, 1980; Pylyshyn 1984; Dietrich 1990), mental states are computational states, so if one wishes to build a mind, one is actually looking for the right program to run on a digital computer. A computer program is a semantically interpretable formal symbol system consisting of rules for manipulating symbols on the basis of their shapes, which are arbitrary in relation to what they can be systematically interpreted as meaning. According to computationalism, every physical implementation of the right (...)
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  5. Stevan Harnad, Grounding Symbols in the Analog World with Neural Nets a Hybrid Model.
    1.1 The predominant approach to cognitive modeling is still what has come to be called "computationalism" (Dietrich 1990, Harnad 1990b), the hypothesis that cognition is computation. The more recent rival approach is "connectionism" (Hanson & Burr 1990, McClelland & Rumelhart 1986), the hypothesis that cognition is a dynamic pattern of connections and activations in a "neural net." Are computationalism and connectionism really deeply different from one another, and if so, should they compete for cognitive hegemony, or should they collaborate? These (...)
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  6. Stevan Harnad, Interactive Cognition: Exploring the Potential of Electronic Quote/Commenting.
    Human cognition is not an island unto itself. As a species, we are not Leibnizian Monads independently engaging in clear, Cartesian thinking. Our minds interact. That's surely why our species has language. And that interactivity probably constrains both what and how we think.
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  7. Stevan Harnad, Lively Flights of Fancy.
    Suppose Boeing 747s grew on trees. They would first sprout as embryonic planes, the size of an acorn. Then they would grow until they reached full size, when they would plop off the trees, ready to fly. Suppose also that we knew how to feed and care for them, how to make minor repairs, and of course how to fly them. But let us suppose that all of this transpired at a very early stage in our scientific history, when we (...)
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  8. Stevan Harnad, Learned Inquiry and the Net: The Role of Peer Review, Peer Commentary and Copyright.
    Peer Review and Copyright each have a double role: Formal refereeing protects (R1) the author from publishing and (R2) the reader from reading papers that are not of sufficient quality. Copyright protects the author from (C1) theft of text and (C2) theft of authorship. It has been suggested that in the electronic medium we can dispense with peer review, "publish" everything, and let browsing and commentary do the quality control. It has also been suggested that special safeguards and laws may (...)
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  9. Stevan Harnad, Rachel Pevtzow.
    In innate Categorical Perception (CP) (e.g., colour perception), similarity space is "warped," with regions of increased within-category similarity (compression) and regions of reduced between-category similarity (separation) enh ancing the category boundaries and making categorisation reliable and all-or-none rather than graded. We show that category learning can likewise warp similarity space, resolving uncertainty near category boundaries. Two Hard and two Easy texture learning tasks were compared: As predicted, there were fewer successful Learners with the Hard task, and only the successful Learners (...)
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  10. Stevan Harnad, Symbols and Nets: Cooperation Vs Competition.
    This is a paperback reissue of a 1988 special issue of Cognition - dated but still of interest. The book consists of three chapters, each making one major negative point about connectionism. Fodor & Pylyshyn (F&P) argue that connectionist networks (henceforth 'nets') are not good models for cognition because they lack 'systematicity', Pinker & Price (P&P) argue that nets are not good substitutes for rule-based models of linguistic ability, and Lachter & Bever (L&B) argue that nets can only model the (...)
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  11. Stevan Harnad, The Case Against Mixing Up Green and Gold.
    This article is a critique of: The "Green" and "Gold" Roads to Open Access: The Case for Mixing and Matching Jean-Claude Guédon Serials Review 30(4) 2004 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.serrev.2004.09.005 Open Access (OA) means: free online access to all peer-reviewed journal articles.
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  12. Stevan Harnad, There is No Concrete.
    We are accustomed to thinking that a primrose is "concrete" and a prime number is "abstract," that "roundness" is more abstract than "round," and that "property" is more abstract than "roundness." In reality, the relation between "abstract" and "concrete" is more like the (non)relation between "abstract" and "concave," "concrete" being a sensory term [about what something feels like] and "abstract" being a functional term (about what the sensorimotor system is doing with its input in order to produce its output): Feelings (...)
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  13. Stevan Harnad, The Mind/Body Problem Is the Feeling/Function Problem.
    The mind/body problem is the feeling/function problem (Harnad 2001). The only way to "solve" it is to provide a causal/functional explanation of how and why we feel..
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  14. Stevan Harnad, The Timing of a Conscious Decision: From Ear to Mouth.
    Libet, Gleason, Wright, & Pearl (1983) asked participants to report the moment at which they freely decided to initiate a pre-specified movement, based on the position of a red marker on a clock. Using event-related potentials (ERPs), Libet found that the subjective feeling of deciding to perform a voluntary action came after the onset of the motor “readiness potential,” RP). This counterintuitive conclusion poses a challenge for the philosophical notion of free will. Faced with these findings, Libet (1985) proposed that (...)
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  15. Stevan Harnad, Uncomplemented Categories, or, What is It Like to Be a Bachelor?
    Maybe it's just because hermeneutics is so much in vogue these days, but I've lately come to believe that the secret of the meaning of life is revealed by certain jokes from the state of Maine. The pertinent one on this occasion (and some of you will recognize it as one I've invoked before) is the one that goes "How's your wife? to which the appropriate deadpan downeaster reply is: "Compared to what?".
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  16. Stevan Harnad, Waking OA's “Slumbering Giant”: The University's Mandate To Mandate Open Access.
    SUMMARY: Universities (the universal research-providers) as well as research funders (public and private) are beginning to make it part of their mandates to ensure not only that researchers conduct and publish peer-reviewed research (“publish or perish”), but that they also make it available online, free for all. This is called Open Access (OA), and it maximizes the uptake, impact and progress of research by making it accessible to all potential users worldwide, not just those whose universities can afford to subscribe (...)
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  17. Stevan Harnad & Paul Bloom, In Response to This Article Rejection.
    Harmonic Resonance Theory: An alternative to the "Neuron Doctrine" paradigm of neurocomputation to address the Gestalt properties of perception.
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  18. Stevan Harnad & SJ Hanson, Categorical Perception and the Evolution of Supervised Learning in Neural Nets.
    Some of the features of animal and human categorical perception (CP) for color, pitch and speech are exhibited by neural net simulations of CP with one-dimensional inputs: When a backprop net is trained to discriminate and then categorize a set of stimuli, the second task is accomplished by "warping" the similarity space (compressing within-category distances and expanding between-category distances). This natural side-effect also occurs in humans and animals. Such CP categories, consisting of named, bounded regions of similarity space, may be (...)
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  19. Stevan Harnad & Stephen J. Hanson, Learned Categorical Perception in Neural Nets: Implications for Symbol Grounding.
    After people learn to sort objects into categories they see them differently. Members of the same category look more alike and members of different categories look more different. This phenomenon of within-category compression and between-category separation in similarity space is called categorical perception (CP). It is exhibited by human subjects, animals and neural net models. In backpropagation nets trained first to auto-associate 12 stimuli varying along a onedimensional continuum and then to sort them into 3 categories, CP arises as a (...)
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  20. Leslie Carr & Stevan Harnad, Evidence of Hypertext in the Scholarly Archive.
    Dalgaard's recent article [3] argues that the part of the Web that constitutes the scientific literature is composed of increasingly linked archives. He describes the move in the online communications of the scientific community towards an expanding zone of secondorder textuality, of an evolving network of texts commenting on, citing, classifying, abstracting, listing and revising other texts. In this respect, archives are becoming a network of texts rather than simply a classified collection of texts. He emphasizes the definition of hypertext (...)
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  21. Stevan Harnad, Creative Disagreement.
    Do scientists agree? It is not only unrealistic to suppose that they do, but probably just as unrealistic to think that they ought to. Agreement is for what is already established scientific history. The current and vital ongoing aspect of science consists of an active and often heated interaction of data, ideas and minds, in a process one might call "creative disagreement." The "scientific method" is largely derived from a reconstruction based on selective hindsight. What actually goes on has much (...)
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  22. Stevan Harnad, Computers Don't Follow Instructions.
    Harnad accepts the picture of computation as formalism, so that any implementation of a program - thats any implementation - is as good as any other; in fact, in considering claims about the properties of computations, the nature of the implementing system - the interpreter - is invisible. Let me refer to this idea as 'Computationalism'. Almost all the criticism, claimed refutation by Searle's argument, and sharp contrasting of this idea with others, rests on the absoluteness of this separation between (...)
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  23. Stevan Harnad, Free at Last: The Future of Peer Reviewed Journals.
    I have a feeling that when Posterity looks back at the last decade of the 2nd A.D. millennium of scholarly and scientific research on our planet, it may chuckle at us. It is not the pace of our scholarly and scientific research that will look risible, nor the tempo of technological change. On the contrary, the astonishing speed and scale of both will make the real anomaly look all the more striking.
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  24. Stevan Harnad, First Person Singular: Review Of: Brian Rotman: Becoming Beside Ourselves: Alphabet, Ghosts, Distributed Human Beings. [REVIEW]
    Brian Rotman argues that (one) “mind” and (one) “god” are only conceivable, literally, because of (alphabetic) literacy, which allowed us to designate each of these ghosts as an incorporeal, speaker-independent “I” (or, in the case of infinity, a notional agent that goes on counting forever). I argue that to have a mind is to have the capacity to feel. No one can be sure which organisms feel, hence have minds, but it seems likely that one-celled organisms and plants do not, (...)
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  25. Stevan Harnad, From Sensorimotor Praxis and Pantomime to Symbolic Propositions.
    What lies on the two sides of the linguistic divide is fairly clear: On one side, you have organisms buffeted about to varying degrees, depending on their degree of autonomy and plasticity, by the states of affairs in the world they live in. On the other side, you have organisms capable of describing and explaining the states of affairs in the world they live in. Language is what distinguishes one side from the other. How did we get here from there? (...)
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  26. Stevan Harnad, Learning Word Meaning From Dictionary Definitions: Sensorimotor Induction Precedes Verbal Instruction.
    Almost all words are the names of categories. We can learn most of our words (and hence our categories) from dictionary definitions, but not all of them. Some have to be learned from direct experience. To understand a word from its definition we need to already understand the words used in the definition. This is the “Symbol Grounding Problem” [1]. How many words (and which ones) do we need to ground directly in sensorimotor experience in order to be able to (...)
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  27. Stevan Harnad, Mind in Society: Where the Action Is?
    In his chapter titled "Consciousness, Charles Taylor suggests that the traditional mind/body, mental/physical dichotomy is an undesirable legacy of the seventeenth century. Its faults are that it gives rise to a dualism that must then be resolved in various unsatisfactory ways. The most prevalent of these ways is currently "functionalism," which explains cognition in terms of functional states and processes like those of a computer and "marginalizes" (i.e., minimizes or denies completely the causal role of) consciousness. The alternative, "interactionism," gives (...)
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  28. Stevan Harnad, Maximizing Research Progress Through Open Access Mandates and Metrics.
    Research is done (mostly at universities) and funded (publicly and privately) in order to advance scientific and scholarly knowledge as well as to produce public benefits (technological and biomedical applications as well as educational and cultural ones). Research and researchers are accordingly funded not only to conduct their research, but to make their findings public, by publishing them. Their employment, salaries, careers and research funding depend on publishing their findings. This is what is often called "publish or perish.".
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  29. Stevan Harnad, Maximizing University Research Impact Through Self Archiving.
    To appreciate what a huge difference there is between the author of a peer reviewed journal article and just about any other kind of author we need only remind ourselves why universities have their "publish or perish" policy: Aside from imparting existing knowledge to students through teaching, the work of a university scholar or scientist is devoted to creating new knowledge for other scholars and scientists to use, apply, and build upon, for the benefit of us all. Creating new knowledge (...)
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  30. Stevan Harnad, On Fodor on Darwin on Evolution.
    Jerry Fodor argues that Darwin was wrong about "natural selection" because (1) it is only a tautology rather than a scientific law that can support counterfactuals ("If X had happened, Y would have happened") and because (2) only minds can select. Hence Darwin's analogy with "artificial selection" by animal breeders was misleading and evolutionary explanation is nothing but post-hoc historical narrative. I argue that Darwin was right on all counts. Until Darwin's "tautology," it had been believed that either (a) God (...)
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  31. Stevan Harnad, Psychophysical and Cognitive Aspects of Categorical Perception:A Critical Overview.
    There are many entry points into the problem of categorization. Two particularly important ones are the so-called top-down and bottom-up approaches. Top-down approaches such as artificial intelligence begin with the symbolic names and descriptions for some categories already given; computer programs are written to manipulate the symbols. Cognitive modeling involves the further assumption that such symbol-interactions resemble the way our brains do categorization. An explicit expectation of the top-down approach is that it will eventually join with the bottom-up approach, which (...)
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  32. Stevan Harnad, Publish or Perish - Self Archive to Flourish: The Green Route to Open Access.
    Europe is losing almost 50% of the potential return on its research investment until research funders and institutions mandate that all research findings must be made freely accessible to all would be users, webwide. It is not the number of articles published that reflects the return on Europe's research investment: A piece of research, if it is worth funding and doing at all, must not only be published, but used, applied and built upon by other researchers, worldwide. This is called (...)
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  33. Stevan Harnad, Self Archive Unto Others as Ye Would Have Them Self Archive Unto You.
    Scholars and scientists do research to create new knowledge so that other scholars and scientists can use it to create still more new knowledge and to apply it to improving people's lives. They are paid to do research, but not to report their research: That they do for free, because it is not royalty revenue from their research papers but their "research impact" that pays their salaries, funds their further research, earns them prestige and prizes, etc.
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  34. Stevan Harnad, Searle's Chinese Room Argument.
    Computationalism. According to computationalism, to explain how the mind works, cognitive science needs to find out what the right computations are -- the same ones that the brain performs in order to generate the mind and its capacities. Once we know that, then every system that performs those computations will have those mental states: Every computer that runs the mind's program will have a mind, because computation is hardware independent : Any hardware that is running the right program has the (...)
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  35. Stevan Harnad, Spare Me the Complements: An Immoderate Proposal for Eliminating the "We/They" Category Boundary.
    Certain biological facts are undeniable: Any creature born with a tendency to ignore the calls of nature -- not to eat when hungry, not to mate when horny, not to flee when in harm's way -- would not pass on that unfortunate tendency. Such a creature would instead be the first in a long line of extinct descendents. Maladaptive traits are eliminated from the gene pool by the very definition of what it means to be maladaptive.
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  36. Stevan Harnad, Scholarly Skywriting and the Prepublicationcontinuum of Scientific Inquiry.
    William Gardner's (1990) proposal to establish a searchable, retrievable electronic archive is fine, as far as it goes (though he seems to have missed some of the relevant background literature, e.g. Engelbart 1975, 1984a, b; Schatz, 1985, 1987, 1991). The potential role of electronic networks in scientific publication, however, goes far beyond providing searchable electronic archives for electronic journals. The whole process of scholarly communication is currently undergoing a revolution comparable to the one occasioned by the invention of printing. On (...)
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  37. Stevan Harnad, Sky Writing.
    I want to report a thoroughly (perhaps surreally) modern experience I had recently. First a little context. I've always been a zealous scholarly letter writer (to the point of once being cited in print as "personal communication, pp. 14 - 20"). These days few share my epistolary penchant, which is dismissed as a doomed anachronism. Scholars don't have the time. Inquiry is racing forward much too rapidly for such genteel dawdling -- forward toward, among other things, due credit in print (...)
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  38. Stevan Harnad, The Ttt is Not the Final Word.
    My purpose is to explain, first, that there is an alternative to Harnad's version of the symbol grounding problem, which is known as the problem of primitives; second, that there is an alternative to his solution (which is externalist) in the form of a dispositional conception (which is internalist); and, third, that, while the TTT, properly understood, may provide partial and fallible evidence for the presence of similar mental powers, it cannot supply conclusive proof, because more than observable symbolic manipuation (...)
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  39. Stevan Harnad (forthcoming). Gold Open Access Publishing Must Not Be Allowed to Retard the Progress of Green Open Access Self-Archiving. Logos.
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  40. Stevan Harnad, The Causal Topography of Cognition.
    The causal structure of cognition can be simulated but not implemented computationally, just as the causal structure of a furnace can be simulated but not implemented computationally. Heating is a dynamical property, not a computational one. A computational simulation of a furnace cannot heat a real house (only a simulated house). It lacks the essential causal property of a furnace. This is obvious with computational furnaces. The only thing that allows us even to imagine that it is otherwise in the (...)
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  41. Stevan Harnad, Doing, Feeling, Meaning And Explaining.
    It is “easy” to explain doing, “hard” to explain feeling. Turing has set the agenda for the easy explanation (though it will be a long time coming). I will try to explain why and how explaining feeling will not only be hard, but impossible. Explaining meaning will prove almost as hard because meaning is a hybrid of know-how and what it feels like to know how.
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  42. Stevan Harnad (2011). Deceiving Ourselves About Self-Deception. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 34 (1):25-26.
    Were we just the Darwinian adaptive survival/reproduction machines von Hippel & Trivers invoke to explain us, the self-deception problem would not only be simpler, but also nonexistent. Why would unconscious robots bother to misinform themselves so as to misinform others more effectively? But as we are indeed conscious rather than unconscious robots, the problem is explaining the causal role of consciousness itself, not just its supererogatory tendency to misinform itself so as to misinform (or perform) better.
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  43. Stevan Harnad (2011). Lunch Uncertain [Review Of: Floridi, Luciano (2011) The Philosophy of Information (Oxford)]. [REVIEW] Times Literary Supplement 5664 (22-23).
    The usual way to try to ground knowing according to contemporary theory of knowledge is: We know something if (1) it’s true, (2) we believe it, and (3) we believe it for the “right” reasons. Floridi proposes a better way. His grounding is based partly on probability theory, and partly on a question/answer network of verbal and behavioural interactions evolving in time. This is rather like modeling the data-exchange between a data-seeker who needs to know which button to press on (...)
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  44. Stevan Harnad, Minds, Brains and Turing.
    Turing set the agenda for (what would eventually be called) the cognitive sciences. He said, essentially, that cognition is as cognition does (or, more accurately, as cognition is capable of doing): Explain the causal basis of cognitive capacity and you’ve explained cognition. Test your explanation by designing a machine that can do everything a normal human cognizer can do – and do it so veridically that human cognizers cannot tell its performance apart from a real human cognizer’s – and you (...)
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  45. Stevan Harnad (2011). Zen and the Art of Explaining the Mind. International Journal of Machine Consciousness 3 (02):343-348.
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  46. Stevan Harnad (2010). Eliminating the “Concept” Concept. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33 (2/3):213-214.
    Machery suggests that the concept of is too heterogeneous to serve as a for scientific explanation, so cognitive science should do without concepts. I second the suggestion and propose substituting, in place of concepts, inborn and acquired sensorimotor category-detectors and category-names combined into propositions that define and describe further categories.
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  47. S. Harnad (2008). Validating Research Performance Metrics Against Peer Rankings. Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics 8 (11):103-107.
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  48. Stevan Harnad (2008). Why and How the Problem of the Evolution of Universal Grammar (UG) is Hard. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 31 (5):524-525.
    Christiansen & Chater (C&C) suggest that language is an organism, like us, and that our brains were not selected for Universal Grammar (UG) capacity; rather, languages were selected for learnability with minimal trial-and-error experience by our brains. This explanation is circular: Where did our brain's selective capacity to learn all and only UG-compliant languages come from?
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  49. Stevan Harnad (2007). Creativity : Method or Magic? In Henri Cohen & Brigitte Stemmer (eds.), Consciousness and Cognition: Fragments of Mind and Brain. Elxevier Academic Press.
    Creativity may be a trait, a state or just a process defined by its products. It can be contrasted with certain cognitive activities that are not ordinarily creative, such as problem solving, deduction, induction, learning, imitation, trial and error, heuristics and "abduction," however, all of these can be done creatively too. There are four kinds of theories, attributing creativity respectively to (1) method, (2) "memory" (innate structure), (3) magic or (4) mutation. These theories variously emphasize the role of an unconscious (...)
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  50. Stevan Harnad (2007). Maturana's Autopoietic Hermeneutics Versus Turing's Causal Methodology for Explaining Cognition. [REVIEW] Pragmatics and Cognition 15 (3):599-603.
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