A viable evolutionary cognitive psychology requires that speciﬁc cognitive capacities be (a) heritable and (b) ‘quasi-independent’ from other heritable traits. They must be heritable because there can be no selection for traits that are not. They must be quasi-independent from other heritable traits, since adaptive variations in a speciﬁc cognitive capacity could have no distinctive consequences for ﬁtness if eﬀecting those variations required widespread changes in other unrelated traits and capacities as well. These requirements would be satisﬁed by innate cognitive (...) modules, as the dominant paradigm in evolutionary cognitive psychology assumes. However, those requirements would also be satisﬁed by heritable learning biases, perhaps in the form of architec- tural or chronotopic constraints, that operated to increase the canalization of speciﬁc cognitive capacities in the ancestral environment (Cummins and Cummins 1999). As an organism develops, cognitive capacities that are highly canalized as the result of heritable learning biases might result in an organism that is behaviourally quite similar to an organism whose innate modules come on line as the result of various environ- mental triggers. Taking this possibility seriously is increasingly important as the case against innate cognitive modules becomes increasingly strong. (shrink)
An experiment was conducted to investigate the relative contributions of syntactic form and content to conditional reasoning. The content domain chosen was that of causation. Conditional statements that described causal relationships (if (cause>, then (effect>) were embedded in simple arguments whose entailments are governed by the rules -oftruth-functional logic (i.e., modus ponens, modus tollens, denying the antecedent, and affirming the consequent). The causal statements differed in terms ofthe number of alternative causes and disabling conditions that characterized the causal relationship. (A (...) disabling condition is an event that prevents an effect from occurring even though a relevant cause is present.) Subjects were required to judge whether or not each argument’s conclusion could be accepted. Judgments were found to vary systematically with the number of alternative causes and disabling conditions. Conclusions of arguments based on conditionals with few alternative causes or disabling conditionswerefoun~d:tobe-rnore accept~ able than cdnclusions based on those with many. (shrink)
Proponents of the dominant paradigm in evolutionary psychology argue that a viable evolutionary cognitive psychology requires that specific cognitive capacities be heritable and “quasi-independent” from other heritable traits, and that these requirements are best satisfied by innate cognitive modules. We argue here that neither of these are required in order to describe and explain how evolution shaped the mind.
It is commonly supposed that evolutionary explanations of cognitive phenomena involve the assumption that the capacities to be explained are both innate and modular. This is understandable: independent selection of a trait requires that it be both heritable and largely decoupled from other `nearby' traits. Cognitive capacities realized as innate modules would certainly satisfy these contraints. A viable evolutionary cognitive psychology, however, requires neither extreme nativism nor modularity, though it is consistent with both. In this paper, we seek to show (...) that rather weak assumptions about innateness and modularity are consistent with evolutionary explanations of cognitive capacities. Evolutionary pressures can affect the degree to which the development of a capacity is canalized by biasing acquisition/ learning in ways that favor development of concepts and capacities that proved adaptive to an organism's ancestors. q 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved. (shrink)
D O N A L D D AV I D S O N’S “ Meaning and Truth,” re vo l u t i o n i zed our conception of how truth and meaning are related (Davidson ). In that famous art i c l e , Davidson put forw a rd the bold conjecture that meanings are satisfaction conditions, and that a Tarskian theory of truth for a language is a theory of meaning for that language. (...) In “Meaning and Truth,” Davidson proposed only that a Tarskian truth theory is a theory of meaning. But in “Theories of Me a n i n g and Learnable Languages,” he argued that the ﬁnite base of a Tarskian theory, together with the now familiar combinatorics, would explain how a language with unbounded expre s s i ve capacity could be learned with finite means ( Davidson ). This certainly seems to imply that learning a language is, in p a rt at least, learning a Tarskian truth theory for it, or, at least, learning what is speciﬁed by such a theory. Davisdon was cagey about committing to the view that meanings actually a re satisfaction conditions, but subsequent followers had no such scru p l e s . We can sum this up in a trio of claims: Davidson’s Conjecture () A theory of meaning for L is a truth-conditional semantics for L. () To know the meaning of an expression in L is to know a satisfaction condition for that expression. () Meanings are satisfaction conditions. For the most part, it will not matter in what follows which of these claims is at stake. I will simply take the three to be different ways of formulating what I will call Davidson’s Conjecture (or sometimes just The Conjecture). Davidson’s Conjecture was a very bold conjecture. I think we are now in a.. (shrink)
Robert Cummins has recently used the program of Clark Hull to illustrate the effects of logical positivist epistemology upon psychological theory. On Cummins's account, Hull's theory is best understood as a functional analysis, rather than a nomological subsumption. Hull's commitment to the logical positivist view of explanation is said to have blinded him to this aspect of this theory, and thus restricted its scope. We will argue that this interpretation of Hull's epistemology, though common, is mistaken. Hull's epistemological (...) views were developed independently of, and in considerable contrast to, the principles of logical positivism. (shrink)
A plausible line of thought runs as follows. If P is a semantically primitive predicate of a first order language L, then P requires its own clause in the definition of satisfaction integral to a definition of truth for L. Thus if L has infinitely many such P the satisfaction clause cannot be completed nor can a theory of truth for L. Robert Cummins takes issue with this line of argument. This paper takes issue with Cummins.
Daniel Dennett (1991) has advanced a mild realism in which beliefs are described as patterns “discernible in agents' (observable) behavior” (p. 30). I clarify the conflict between this otherwise attractive theory and the strong realist view that beliefs are internal states that cause actions. Support for strong realism is sometimes derived from the assumption that the everyday psychology of the folk is committed to it. My main thesis here is that we have sufficient reason neither for strong realism nor for (...) the supporting assumption about the commitments of folk psychology. Several generally implicit arguments in support of the latter assumption are considered. Explicit arguments for it by Ramsey et al. (1990) and Wellman (1990) are examined and judged unsuccessful. An explicit argument for strong realism by Cummins (in conversation) is also found inadequate. Consideration of this latter argument helps to explain why we cannot be satisfied with Dennett's own very brief discussion of causation by beliefs. (shrink)
I examine whether it is possible for content relevant to a computer''s behavior to be carried without an explicit internal representation. I consider three approaches. First, an example of a chess playing computer carrying emergent content is offered from Dennett. Next I examine Cummins response to this example. Cummins says Dennett''s computer executes a rule which is inexplicitly represented. Cummins describes a process wherein a computer interprets explicit rules in its program, implements them to form a chess-playing (...) device, then this device executes the rules in a way that exhibits them inexplicitly. Though this approach is intriguing, I argue that the chess-playing device cannot exist as imagined. The processes of interpretation and implementation produce explicit representations of the content claimed to be inexplicit. Finally, the Chinese Room argument is examined and shown not to save the notion of inexplicit information. This means the strategy of attributing inexplicit content to a computer which is executing a rule, fails. (shrink)
There is no doubt that social interaction plays an important role in language-learning, as well as in concept acquisition. In surprising contrast, social interaction makes only passing appearance in our most promising naturalistic theories of content. This is particularly true in the case of mental content (e.g., Cummins, 1996; Dretske, 1981, 1988; Fodor, 1987, 1990a; Millikan, 1984); and insofar as linguistic content derives from mental content (Grice, 1957), social interaction seems missing from our best naturalistic theories of both.1 In (...) this paper, I explore the ways in which even the most individualistic of theories of mental content can, and should, accommodate social effects. I focus especially on the way in which inferential relations, including those that are socially taught, influence language-learning and concept acquisition. I argue that these factors affect the way subjects conceive of mental and linguistic content. Such effects have a dark side: the social and inferential processes in question give rise to misleading intuitions about content itself. They create the illusion that content and inferential relations are more deeply intertwined than they actually are. This illusion confounds an otherwise attractive solution to what is known as ‘Frege’s puzzle’ (Salmon, 1986). I.. (shrink)