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Profile: Johan de Smedt (University of Ghent)
  1. Johan De Smedt & Helen De Cruz (2014). The Imago Dei as a Work in Progress: A Perspective From Paleoanthropology. Zygon 49 (1):135-156.
    This article considers the imago Dei from the perspective of paleoanthropology. We identify structural, functional, and relational elements of the imago Dei that emerged mosaically during human evolution. Humans are unique in their ability to relate to each other and to God, and in their membership of cultural communities where shared attention, the transmission of moral norms, and symbolic behavior are important elements. We discuss similarities between our approach and the concept of theosis adopted in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
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  2. Stefaan Blancke & Johan De Smedt (2013). Evolved to Be Irrational?: Evolutionary and Cognitive Foundations of Pseudosciences. In Massimo Pigliucci & Maarten Boudry (eds.), Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem. University of Chicago Press.
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  3. Helen De Cruz & Johan De Smedt (2013). Mathematical Symbols as Epistemic Actions. Synthese 190 (1):3-19.
    Recent experimental evidence from developmental psychology and cognitive neuroscience indicates that humans are equipped with unlearned elementary mathematical skills. However, formal mathematics has properties that cannot be reduced to these elementary cognitive capacities. The question then arises how human beings cognitively deal with more advanced mathematical ideas. This paper draws on the extended mind thesis to suggest that mathematical symbols enable us to delegate some mathematical operations to the external environment. In this view, mathematical symbols are not only used to (...)
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  4. Helen De Cruz & Johan De Smedt (2013). Reformed and Evolutionary Epistemology and the Noetic Effects of Sin. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 74 (1):49-66.
    Despite their divergent metaphysical assumptions, Reformed and evolutionary epistemologists have converged on the notion of proper basicality. Where Reformed epistemologists appeal to God, who has designed the mind in such a way that it successfully aims at the truth, evolutionary epistemologists appeal to natural selection as a mechanism that favors truth-preserving cognitive capacities. This paper investigates whether Reformed and evolutionary epistemological accounts of theistic belief are compatible. We will argue that their chief incompatibility lies in the noetic effects of sin (...)
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  5. Helen De Cruz & Johan De Smedt (2013). The Value of Epistemic Disagreement in Scientific Practice. The Case of Homo Floresiensis. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 44 (2):169–177.
    Epistemic peer disagreement raises interesting questions, both in epistemology and in philosophy of science. When is it reasonable to defer to the opinion of others, and when should we hold fast to our original beliefs? What can we learn from the fact that an epistemic peer disagrees with us? A question that has received relatively little attention in these debates is the value of epistemic peer disagreement—can it help us to further epistemic goals, and, if so, how? We investigate this (...)
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  6. Johan De Smedt & Helen De Cruz (2013). Delighting in Natural Beauty: Joint Attention and the Phenomenology of Nature Aesthetics. European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 5 (4):167-186.
    Empirical research in the psychology of nature appreciation suggests that humans across cultures tend to evaluate nature in positive aesthetic terms, including a sense of beauty and awe. They also frequently engage in joint attention with other persons, whereby they are jointly aware of sharing attention to the same event or object. This paper examines how, from a natural theological perspective, delight in natural beauty can be conceptualized as a way of joining attention to creation. Drawing on an analogy between (...)
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  7. Johan De Smedt & Helen De Cruz (2013). The Artistic Design Stance and the Interpretation of Paleolithic Art. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 36 (2):139-140.
    The artistic design stance is an important part of art appreciation, but it remains unclear how it can be applied to artworks for which art historical context is no longer available, such as Ice Age art. We propose that some of the designer's intentions can be gathered noninferentially through direct experience with prehistoric artworks.
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  8. Helen de Cruz & Johan de Smedt (2012). Evolved Cognitive Biases and the Epistemic Status of Scientific Beliefs. Philosophical Studies 157 (3):411-429.
    Our ability for scientific reasoning is a byproduct of cognitive faculties that evolved in response to problems related to survival and reproduction. Does this observation increase the epistemic standing of science, or should we treat scientific knowledge with suspicion? The conclusions one draws from applying evolutionary theory to scientific beliefs depend to an important extent on the validity of evolutionary arguments (EAs) or evolutionary debunking arguments (EDAs). In this paper we show through an analytical model that cultural transmission of scientific (...)
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  9. Maarten Boudry, Helen De Cruz, Stefaan Blancke & Johan De Smedt (2011). Het 'Universele Zuur' van de Evolutionaire Psychologie? Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 73 (2):287-305.
    In a previous issue of Tijdschrift voor Filosofie, Filip Buekens argues that evolutionary psychology (EP), or some interpretations thereof, have a corrosive impact on our ‘manifest self-image’. Buekens wants to defend and protect the global adequacy of this manifest self-image in the face of what he calls evolutionary revisionism. Although we largely agree with Buekens’ central argument, we criticize his analysis on several accounts, making some constructive proposals to strengthen his case. First, Buekens’ argument fails to target EP, because his (...)
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  10. Helen de Cruz, Maarten Boudry, Johan de Smedt & Stefaan Blancke (2011). Evolutionary Approaches to Epistemic Justification. Dialectica 65 (4):517-535.
    What are the consequences of evolutionary theory for the epistemic standing of our beliefs? Evolutionary considerations can be used to either justify or debunk a variety of beliefs. This paper argues that evolutionary approaches to human cognition must at least allow for approximately reliable cognitive capacities. Approaches that portray human cognition as so deeply biased and deficient that no knowledge is possible are internally incoherent and self-defeating. As evolutionary theory offers the current best hope for a naturalistic epistemology, evolutionary approaches (...)
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  11. Johan De Smedt, Common Minds, Uncommon Thoughts: A Philosophical Anthropological Investigation of Uniquely Human Creative Behavior, with an Emphasis on Artistic Ability, Religious Reflection, and Scientific Study.
    The aim of this dissertation is to create a naturalistic philosophical picture of creative capacities that are specific to our species, focusing on artistic ability, religious reflection, and scientific study. By integrating data from diverse domains (evolutionary and developmental psychology, cognitive anthropology and archeology, neuroscience) within a philosophical anthropological framework, I have presented a cognitive and evolutionary approach to the question of why humans, but not other animals engage in such activities. Through an application of cognitive and evolutionary perspectives to (...)
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  12. Johan de Smedt & Helen de Cruz (2011). A Cognitive Approach to the Earliest Art. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 69 (4):379-389.
    This paper takes a cognitive perspective to assess the significance of some Late Palaeolithic artefacts (sculptures and engraved objects) for philosophicalconcepts of art. We examine cognitive capacities that are necessary to produceand recognize objects that are denoted as art. These include the ability toattribute and infer design (design stance), the ability to distinguish between themateriality of an object and its meaning (symbol-mindedness), and an aesthetic sensitivity to some perceptual stimuli. We investigate to what extent thesecognitive processes played a role in (...)
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  13. Johan De Smedt & Helen De Cruz, The Cognitive Appeal of the Cosmological Argument.
    The cosmological argument has enjoyed and still enjoys substantial popularity in various traditions of natural theology. We propose that its enduring appeal is due at least in part to its concurrence with human cognitive predispositions, in particular intuitions about causality and agency. These intuitions seem to be a stable part of human cognition. We will consider implications for the justification of the cosmological argument from externalist and internalist perspectives.
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  14. Helen De Cruz & Johan De Smedt (2010). The Innateness Hypothesis and Mathematical Concepts. Topoi 29 (1):3-13.
    In historical claims for nativism, mathematics is a paradigmatic example of innate knowledge. Claims by contemporary developmental psychologists of elementary mathematical skills in human infants are a legacy of this. However, the connection between these skills and more formal mathematical concepts and methods remains unclear. This paper assesses the current debates surrounding nativism and mathematical knowledge by teasing them apart into two distinct claims. First, in what way does the experimental evidence from infants, nonhuman animals and neuropsychology support the nativist (...)
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  15. Helen de Cruz & Johan de Smedt (2010). Paley's Ipod: The Cognitive Basis of the Design Argument Within Natural Theology. Zygon 45 (3):665-684.
    The argument from design stands as one of the most intuitively compelling arguments for the existence of a divine Creator. Yet, for many scientists and philosophers, Hume's critique and Darwin's theory of natural selection have definitely undermined the idea that we can draw any analogy from design in artifacts to design in nature. Here, we examine empirical studies from developmental and experimental psychology to investigate the cognitive basis of the design argument. From this it becomes clear that humans spontaneously discern (...)
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  16. Johan De Smedt (2009). Cognitive Modularity in the Light of the Language Faculty. Logique Et Analyse 208:373-387.
    Ever since Chomsky, language has become the paradigmatic example of an innate capacity. Infants of only a few months old are aware of the phonetic structure of their mother tongue, such as stress-patterns and phonemes. They can already discriminate words from non-words and acquire a feel for the grammatical structure months before they voice their first word. Language reliably develops not only in the face of poor linguistic input, but even without it. In recent years, several scholars have extended this (...)
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  17. Helen De Cruz & Johan De Smedt (2007). The Role of Intuitive Ontologies in Scientific Understanding – the Case of Human Evolution. Biology and Philosophy 22 (3):351-368.
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