Many psychological studies of categorization and reasoning use undergraduates to make claims about human conceptualization. Generalizability of findings to other populations is often assumed but rarely tested. Even when comparative studies are conducted, it may be challenging to interpret differences. As a partial remedy, in the present studies we adopt a 'triangulation strategy' to evaluate the ways expertise and culturally different belief systems can lead to different ways of conceptualizing the biological world. We use three groups (US bird experts, US (...) undergraduates, and ordinary Itza' Maya) and two sets of birds (North American and Central American). Categorization tasks show considerable similarity among the three groups' taxonomic sorts, but also systematic differences. Notably, US expert categorization is more similar to Itza' than to US novice categorization. The differences are magnified on inductive reasoning tasks where only undergraduates show patterns of judgment that are largely consistent with current models of category-based taxonomic inference. The Maya commonly employ causal and ecological reasoning rather than taxonomic reasoning. Experts use a mixture of strategies (including causal and ecological reasoning), only some of which current models explain. US and Itza' informants differed markedly when reasoning about passerines (songbirds), reflecting the somewhat different role that songbirds play in the two cultures. The results call into question the importance of similarity-based notions of typicality and central tendency in natural categorization and reasoning. These findings also show that relative expertise leads to a convergence of thought that transcends cultural boundaries and shared experiences. (shrink)
The past three years saw more suicide attacks than the last quarter century. Most of these were religiously motivated. While most Westerners have imagined a tightly coordinated transnational terrorist organization headed by Al Qaeda, it seems more likely that nations under attack face a set of largely autonomous groups and cells pursuing their own regional aims. Repeated suicide actions show that massive counterforce alone does not diminish the frequency or intensity of suicide attack. Like pounding mercury with a hammer, this (...) sort of top-heavy counterstrategy only seems to generate more dispersed and insidious forms of suicide terrorism. Even with many top Qaeda leaders now dead or in custody, the transnational Jihadist fraternity is transforming into a hydra-headed network more difficult to fight than before. Poverty and lack of education per se are not root causes of suicide terrorism. And Muslims who have expressed support for martyr actions and trust in Osama Bin Laden or the late Hamas leader Sheikh Yassin do not as a rule hate democratic freedoms or Western culture, although many despise American foreign policy, especially in the Middle East. Rising aspirations followed by dwindling expectations – especially regarding civil liberties – are critical factors in generating support for suicide terrorism. The United States, Israel, Russia and other nations on the frontline in the war on terror need to realize that military and counterinsurgency actions are tactical, not strategic responses to suicide terrorism, the most politically destabilizing and psychologically devastating form of terrorism. When these nations back oppressive and unpopular governments this only generates popular resentment and support for terrorism against those governments and their backers. To attract potential recruits away from Jihadist martyrdom – suicide terrorism's most virulent strain - and to dry up its popular support, requires addressing these grievances before a downward spiral sets in where core meaning in life is sought, and found, in religious networks that sanctify vengeance at any cost against stronger powers, even if it kills the avenger. (shrink)
Religion is not an evolutionary adaptation per se, but a recurring cultural by-product of the complex evolutionary landscape that sets cognitive, emotional, and material conditions for ordinary human interactions. Religion exploits only ordinary cognitive processes to passionately display costly devotion to counterintuitive worlds governed by supernatural agents. The conceptual foundations of religion are intuitively given by task-specific panhuman cognitive domains, including folkmechanics, folkbiology, and folkpsychology. Core religious beliefs minimally violate ordinary notions about how the world is, with all of its (...) inescapable problems, thus enabling people to imagine minimally impossible supernatural worlds that solve existential problems, including death and deception. Here the focus is on folkpsychology and agency. A key feature of the supernatural agent concepts common to all religions is the triggering of an “Innate Releasing Mechanism,” or “agency detector,” whose proper (naturally selected) domain encompasses animate objects relevant to hominid survival – such as predators, protectors, and prey – but which actually extends to moving dots on computer screens, voices in wind, and faces on clouds. Folkpsychology also crucially involves metarepresentation, which makes deception possible and threatens any social order. However, these same metacognitive capacities provide the hope and promise of open-ended solutions through representations of counterfactual supernatural worlds that cannot be logically or empirically verified or falsified. Because religious beliefs cannot be deductively or inductively validated, validation occurs only by ritually addressing the very emotions motivating religion. Cross-cultural experimental evidence encourages these claims. Key Words: agency; death anxiety; evolution; folkpsychology; Maya; memory; metarepresentation; morality; religion; supernatural. (shrink)
Religion is not an evolutionary adaptation per se, but a recurring by-product of the complex evolutionary landscape that sets cognitive, emotional and material conditions for ordinary human interactions. Religion involves extraordinary use of ordinary cognitive processes to passionately display costly devotion to counterintuitive worlds governed by supernatural agents. The conceptual foundations of religion are intuitively given by task-specific panhuman cognitive domains, including folkmechanics, folkbiology, folkpsychology. Core religious beliefs minimally violate ordinary notions about how the world is, with all of its (...) inescapable problems, thus enabling people to imagine minimally impossible supernatural worlds that solve existential problems, including death and deception. Here the focus is on folkpsychology and agency. A key feature of the supernatural agent concepts common to all religions is the triggering of an "Innate Releasing Mechanism," or “agency detector,” whose proper domain encompasses animate objects relevant to hominid survival - such as predators, protectors and prey - but which actually extends to moving dots on computer screens, voices in wind, faces on clouds. Folkpsychology also crucially involves metarepresentation, which makes deception possible and threatens any social order; however, these same metacognitive capacities provide the hope and promise of open-ended solutions through representations of counterfactual supernatural worlds that cannot be logically or empirically verified or falsified. Because religious beliefs cannot be deductively or inductively validated, validation occurs only by ritually addressing the very emotions motivating religion. Cross-cultural experimental evidence encourages these claims. (shrink)
Press Release: Terrorism in Southeast Asia: An Interview with Abu Bakar Ba'asyir 10/03/2005 - In August, Dr. Scott Atran travelled to Southeast Asia and conducted extensive research on terrorist groups operating in the region. This interview with Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, alleged leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah organization, was conducted on August 13 and 15, 2005 from Cipinang Prison in Jakarta. Questions were formulated by Dr. Atran and posed for him in Behasa Indonesian by Taufiq Andrie. The interview took (...) place in a special visitor's room, where Ba'asyir had seven acolytes acting as his bodyguards, including Taufiq Halim, the perpetrator of the Atrium mall bombing in Jakarta, and Abdul Jabbar, who blew up the Philippines ambassador's house. Excerpts from the interview are below; click here to read the full interview. Q. In your personal view, what do you think of bombings in our homeland, namely the Bali, Marriott and Kuningan bombings? A. I call those who carried out these actions all mujahid. They all had a good intention, that is, Jihad in Allah's way, the aim of the jihad is to look for blessing from Allah. They are right that America is the proper target because America fights Islam. So in terms of their objectives, they are right, and the target of their attacks was right also. But their calculations are debatable. My view is that we should do bombings in conflict areas not in peaceful areas. We have to target the place of the enemy, not countries where many Muslims live. Q. What do you mean by “wrong calculation,” that the victims included Muslims? A. That was one them. In my calculation, if there are bombings in peaceful areas, this will cause fitnah [discord] and other parties will be involved. This is my opinion and I could be wrong. Yet I still consider them mujahid. If they made mistakes, they are only human beings who can be wrong. Moreover, their attacks could be considered as self-defense. (shrink)
Atran argues that an autonomous ethnobiological information-processing module exists. This module imputes a “deep causal essence” to folk-biological taxa and uses a hierarchy of taxonomic ranks. I argue that Atran's own data suggest that rank is not an essential feature of the ethnobiological module, and that ethnobiological causal essences may be generalized to other domains and vice versa, limiting its autonomy.
Atran advances three theses: our folk-biological taxonomy is (1) universal, (2) innate, and (3) the product of natural selection. I argue that Atran offers insufficient support for theses (2) and (3) and that his evolutionary psychology thus amounts to nothing more than a just-so story.
Scott Atran has argued that scientific thinking about living things necessarily emerges out of a common-sense structure of ideas which reflects the ways in which humans are constitutionally disposed to think about ‘manifestly perceivable empirical fact’. He maintains that the uniformity in folk-biological taxonomy under diverse socio-cultural learning conditions established by recent ethnobiological research undermines the predominant view that folk classifications of living things are a function of local interests and culture, and he further maintains that such uniformity must (...) be grounded in species-specific and domain-specific cognitive capacities. I consider certain philosophically controversial lessons that Atran wishes to draw from these claims, concerning (a) philosophical theories of natural kinds, and (b) the ‘reality’ of folk-biological kinds and the relation between such kinds and the kinds posited by biological science. I argue that, even if we grant the ethnobiological evidence to which he appeals, such evidencedoes not bear upon the philosophical issues in the ways that he proposes. (shrink)
Atran & Norenzayan (A&N) have not adequately supported the epistemic component of their proposal, namely, that God does not exist. A weaker, more probable hypothesis, not requiring that component – that the benefits of religious belief outweigh those of disbelief, even though we do not know whether or not God exists – is available. I counsel them to use Ockham's razor, eliminate their negative epistemic thesis, and accept the weaker hypothesis.
Atran & Norenzayan's (A&N's) analysis fits with other perspectives on evoked culture: Cultural beliefs might emerge simply from the fact that people share a common cognitive architecture. But no perspective on culture can be complete without incorporating the unstoppable role of communication. The evolutionary landscape of culture will be most completely mapped by theories that describe specifically how communication translates evolved cognitive canals into cultural beliefs.
How does Aristotle view the production of females? The prevailing view is that Aristotle thinks female births are teleological failures of a process aiming to produce males. However, as I argue, that is not a view Aristotle ever expresses, and it blatantly contradicts what he does explicitly say about female births: Aristotle believes that females are and come to be for the sake of something, namely, reproduction. I argue that an alternative to that prevailing view, according to which the embryo’s (...) sex is determined solely by “non-teleological necessity,” also misrepresents Aristotle’s view. As I show, the explanation Aristotle gives is more sophisticated and less egalitarian than the alternative account allows: There is some sense in which males are, for Aristotle, the “default” result. I offer instead an interpretation that can accommodate the asymmetry between Aristotle’s biological account of the production of males and females, but which does not imply that females are thereby teleological failures. There is no doubt that Aristotle thinks females are inferior to males in many respects. However, if he thinks that inferiority is grounded in biological facts, it is not the fact that females are the results of a failure of form to be realized. (shrink)
Some commentators have condemned Kant’s moral project from a feminist perspective based on Kant’s apparently dim view of women as being innately morally deﬁcient. Here I will argue that although his remarks concerning women are unsettling at ﬁrst glance, a more detailed and closer examination shows that Kant’s view of women is actually far more complex and less unsettling than that attributed to him by various feminist critics. My argument, then, undercuts the justiﬁcation for the severe feminist critique of Kant’s (...) moral project. (shrink)
We make the case that the Prisoner’s Dilemma, notwithstanding its fame and the quantity of intellectual resources devoted to it, has largely failed to explain any phenomena of social scientific or biological interest. In the heart of the paper we examine in detail a famous purported example of Prisoner’s Dilemma empirical success, namely Axelrod’s analysis of WWI trench warfare, and argue that this success is greatly overstated. Further, we explain why this negative verdict is likely true generally and not just (...) in our case study. We also address some possible defenses of the Prisoner’s Dilemma. (shrink)
Pascal’s Wager does not exist in a Platonic world of possible gods, abstract probabilities and arbitrary payoffs. Real decision-makers, such as Pascal’s “man of the world” of 1660, face a range of religious options they take to be serious, with fixed probabilities grounded in their evidence, and with utilities that are fixed quantities in actual minds. The many ingenious objections to the Wager dreamed up by philosophers do not apply in such a real decision matrix. In the situation Pascal addresses, (...) the Wager is a good bet. In the situation of a modern Western intellectual, the reasoning of the Wager is still powerful, though the range of options and the actions indicated are not the same as in Pascal’s day. (shrink)
To vindicate morality against skeptical doubts, Kant must show that agents can be moved to act independently of their sensible desires. Kant must therefore answer a motivational question: how does an agent get from the cognition that she ought to act morally to acting morally? Affectivist interpretations of Kant hold that agents are moved to act by feelings, while intellectualists appeal to cognition alone. To overcome the significant shortcomings of each view, I develop a hybrid theory of motivation. My central (...) interpretive claim is that Kant is a special kind of motivational internalist: on his view, agents are moved to act by a feeling of intellectual pleasure at the prospect of accomplishing a task they have set for themselves, a feeling that originates in free choice. The resulting theory is immune to the challenges facing intellectualism and affectivism, thus strengthening the prospects of Kant’s justification of morality. (shrink)
In 2009, Scott S. Reuben was convicted of fabricating data, which lead to 25 of his publications being retracted. Although it is clear that the perpetuation of retracted articles negatively effects the appraisal of evidence, the extent to which retracted literature is cited had not previously been investigated. In this study, to better understand the perpetuation of discredited research, we examine the number of citations of Reuben’s articles within 5 years of their retraction. Citations of Reuben’s retracted articles were assessed (...) using the Web of Science Core Collection. All citing articles were screened to discriminate between articles in which Reuben’s work was quoted as retracted, and articles in which his data was wrongly cited without any note of the retraction status. Twenty of Reuben’s publications had been cited 274 times between 2009 and 1024. In 2014, 45 % of the retracted articles had been cited at least once. In only 25.8 % of citing articles was it clearly stated that Reuben’s work had been retracted. Annual citations decreased from 108 in 2009 to 18 in 2014; however, the percentage of publications correctly indicating the retraction status also declined. The percentage of citations in top-25 %-journals, as well as the percentage of citations in journals from Reuben’s research area, declined sharply after 2009. Our data show that even 5 years after their retraction, nearly half of Reuben’s articles are still being quoted and the retraction status is correctly mentioned in only one quarter of the citations. (shrink)
This chapter argues for an interpretation of Kant's psychology of moral evil that accommodates the so-called excluded middle cases and allows for variations in the magnitude of evil. The strategy involves distinguishing Kant's transcendental psychology from his empirical psychology and arguing that Kant's character rigorism is restricted to the transcendental level. The chapter also explains how Kant's theory of moral evil accommodates 'the badass'; someone who does evil for evil's sake.
The existence of singularities alerts that one of the highest priorities of a centennial perspective on general relativity should be a careful re-thinking of the validity domain of Einstein’s field equations. We address the problem of constructing distinguishable extensions of the smooth spacetime manifold model, which can incorporate singularities, while retaining the form of the field equations. The sheaf-theoretic formulation of this problem is tantamount to extending the algebra sheaf of smooth functions to a distribution-like algebra sheaf in which the (...) former may be embedded, satisfying the pertinent cohomological conditions required for the coordinatization of all of the tensorial physical quantities, such that the form of the field equations is preserved. We present in detail the construction of these distribution-like algebra sheaves in terms of residue classes of sequences of smooth functions modulo the information of singular loci encoded in suitable ideals. Finally, we consider the application of these distribution-like solution sheaves in geometrodynamics by modeling topologically-circular boundaries of singular loci in three-dimensional space in terms of topological links. It turns out that the Borromean link represents higher order wormhole solutions. (shrink)
There are three questions associated with Simpson’s Paradox (SP): (i) Why is SP paradoxical? (ii) What conditions generate SP?, and (iii) What should be done about SP? By developing a logic-based account of SP, it is argued that (i) and (ii) must be divorced from (iii). This account shows that (i) and (ii) have nothing to do with causality, which plays a role only in addressing (iii). A counterexample is also presented against the causal account. Finally, the causal and logic-based (...) approaches are compared by means of an experiment to show that SP is not basically causal. (shrink)
This work runs counter to the traditional interpretations of Peirce's philosophy by eliciting an inherent strand of pragmatic pluralism that is embedded in the very core of his thought and that weaves his various doctrines into a systematic ...
A surprising fact in the historiography of the Hispanic philosophy of this century is its almost total opacity towards the American philosophy, in spite of the real affinity between the central questions of American pragmatism and the topics addressed by the most relevant Hispanic thinkers of the century: Unamuno, Ortega y Gasset, d'Ors, Vaz Ferreira. In this paper that situation is studied, paying special attention to Charles S. Peirce, his personal connections with the Hispanic world, the reception of his texts (...) in Spanish, and some of the connections that lie almost hidden under the mutual ignorance which divides the two traditions. -/- . (shrink)
This is a proposal for rethinking the main lines of Plato’s philosophy, including some of the conceptual tools he uses for building and maintaining it. Drawing on a new interpretive paradigm for Plato’s overall vision, the central focus is on the so-called Forms. Regarding the guiding paradigm, we propose replacing the dualism of a world of Forms separated from a world of particulars, with the monistic model of a hierarchically structured universe comprising interdependent levels of reality. Regarding the tools of (...) the trade, we distinguish between three constructs that have come, one and all, and largely indiscriminately, to be regarded as Forms: Ideal Forms, Conceptual Forms, and Relational Forms. This recalibration of what we know of Plato’s outlook, tools, and methods, together with a realignment of these with his general aims, will also help restore the philosopher’s emphasis on that which is good, a perspective often blurred in the structure of two worlds. (shrink)
In a quantum universe with a strong arrow of time, it is standard to postulate that the initial wave function started in a particular macrostate---the special low-entropy macrostate selected by the Past Hypothesis. Moreover, there is an additional postulate about statistical mechanical probabilities according to which the initial wave function is a ''typical'' choice in the macrostate. Together, they support a probabilistic version of the Second Law of Thermodynamics: typical initial wave functions will increase in entropy. Hence, there are two (...) sources of randomness in such a universe: the quantum-mechanical probabilities of the Born rule and the statistical mechanical probabilities of the Statistical Postulate. I propose a new way to understand time's arrow in a quantum universe. It is based on what I call the Thermodynamic Theories of Quantum Mechanics. According to this perspective, there is a natural choice for the initial quantum state of the universe, which is given by not a wave function but by a density matrix. The density matrix plays a microscopic role: it appears in the fundamental dynamical equations of those theories. The density matrix also plays a macroscopic / thermodynamic role: it is exactly the projection operator onto the Past Hypothesis subspace. Thus, given an initial subspace, we obtain a unique choice of the initial density matrix. I call this property "the conditional uniqueness" of the initial quantum state. The conditional uniqueness provides a new and general strategy to eliminate statistical mechanical probabilities in the fundamental physical theories, by which we can reduce the two sources of randomness to only the quantum mechanical one. I also explore the idea of an absolutely unique initial quantum state, in a way that might realize Penrose's idea of a strongly deterministic universe. (shrink)
Fifty years after the publication of Bell's theorem, there remains some controversy regarding what the theorem is telling us about quantum mechanics, and what the experimental violations of Bell inequalities are telling us about the world. This chapter represents my best attempt to be clear about what I think the lessons are. In brief: there is some sort of nonlocality inherent in any quantum theory, and, moreover, in any theory that reproduces, even approximately, the quantum probabilities for the outcomes of (...) experiments. But not all forms of nonlocality are the same; there is a distinction to be made between action at a distance and other forms of nonlocality, and I will argue that the nonlocality required to violate the Bell inequalities need not involve action at a distance. Furthermore, the distinction between forms of nonlocality makes a difference when it comes to compatibility with relativistic causal structure. (shrink)
Any great new theoretical framework has an epistemological and an ontological aspect to its philosophy as well as an axiological one, and one needs to understand all three aspects in order to grasp the deep aspiration and idea of the theoretical framework. Presently, there is a widespread effort to understand C. S. Peirce's (1837–1914) pragmaticistic semeiotics, and to develop it by integrating the results of modern science and evolutionary thinking; first, producing a biosemiotics and, second, by integrating it with the (...) progress in cybernetics, information science, and system theory to create a cybersemiotics. In this paper, we focus on the understanding of the evolution of the universe that Peirce produced as an alternative to the mechanistic view underlying classical physics and try to place man in an evolving universe as a creative, aesthetical agent. It is true that modern non-equilibrium physics has made a modern foundation for a profound physical understanding of the basic evolutionary processes in the universe. But science still has not produced a theory that can explain how the creativity of the universe could produce signification, interpretation, and first-person consciousness. To this end, Peirce's thoughts on agapastic evolution coupled with the aesthetically influence of the growth of ideas and reasonableness on man could make a contribution. (shrink)
The article uses Zeno’s metrical paradox of extension, or Zeno’s fundamental paradox, as a thought-model for the mind-body problem. With the help of this model, the distinction contained between mental and physical phenomena can be formulated as sharply as possible. I formulate Zeno’s fundamental paradox and give a sketch of four different solutions to it. Then I construct a mind-body paradox corresponding to the fundamental paradox. Through that, it becomes possible to copy the solutions to the fundamental paradox on the (...) mind-body paradox. Three of them fail. But one of them – the Aristotelian one – gives us an interesting hint. Finally, this hint is pursued somewhat further and through comparison with Zeno’s fundamental paradox, the impossibility of a solution to the mind-body problem is shown again. The main new point of this article is the comparison of the mind-body problem with Zeno’s fundamental paradox. The article is a revised english version of an article published in: Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Philosophie, 23, 1998, p. 61-75. (shrink)
This paper attempts to shed light on Kant’s notion of autonomy in his moral philosophy by considering Kant’s critique of the rationalist theories of morality that Kant discussed in his lectures on practical philosophy from the 1760s to the time of the Groundwork. The paper first explains Kant’s taxonomy of moral theories. Second, it considers Kant's arguments against the two main variants of ‘rationalism’ as he construes it, that is, perfectionism and theological voluntarism, pointing out the similarities to previous criticisms. (...) Third, the paper argues that Kant’s discussion of the 'rationalist' views does not amount to an unqualified dismissal, but to an attempt at working out a novel rationalist position. Kant’s criticisms of rationalist views suggest that his project emerges from the failures of previous rationalism, with the aim to work out a rationalist view that can account for moral obligation by integrating insights from the theological conception. The combination of perfectionism and theological views yields the basic outline of the idea of autonomy, consisting in the lawgiving function of a rational will as a key to the legislation of a necessary law. (shrink)
Wittgenstein’s interpreters are undivided that the method plays a central role in his philosophy. This would be no surprise if we have in mind the Tractarian dictum: “philosophy is not a body of doctrine but an activity” (4.112). After 1929, Wittgenstein’s method evolved further. In its final form, articulated in Philosophical Investigations, it was formulated as different kinds of therapies of specific philosophical problems that torment our life (§§ 133, 255, 593). In this paper we follow the changes in Wittgenstein’s (...) thinking in four subsequent phases and in three dimensions: (i) in logic and ontology; (ii) in method proper; (iii) in style. (shrink)
In this paper I examine parallels between C.S. Peirce's most mature account of signs and contemporary philosophy of language. I do this by first introducing a summary of Peirce's final account of Signs. I then use that account of signs to reconstruct Peircian answers to two puzzles of reference: The Problem of Cognitive Significance, or Frege's Puzzle; and The Same-Saying Phenomenon for Indexicals. Finally, a comparison of these Peircian answers with both Fregean and Direct Referentialist approaches to the puzzles highlights (...) interesting parallels and important differences between Peirce's final account of signs, and the concepts used in analytic philosophy of language. (shrink)
Some contemporary intepreters of Kant maintain that on Kant's view fulfilling duties of virtue require doing so from the motive of duty. I argue that there are interpretive and doctinal reasons for rejecting this interpretation. However, I argue that for Kant motives can be deontically relevant; one's motives can affect the deontic status of actions.
Where has the Western attraction to the study and practice of shamanic techniques brought us? Where might it take us? In what ways have our Western biases and philosophical underpinnings influenced and changed how shamanism is practiced, both in the West and in the traditional cultures out of which they emerged? Is it time to stop using the umbrella term “shamanism” to refer to such diverse cross-cultural practices? What are our responsibilities, both as researchers and as spiritual seekers? In this (...) conversation, researcher-authors Stephan Beyer, Stanley Krippner, and Hillary S. Webb discuss their work in field and consider some of the ramifications of the Western world's intellectual and spiritual fascination with shamanic practices. Special attention is paid to the language used to describe these techniques and their practitioners, the developing relationship between researchers and cultural participants, and the ethical implications of merging what are often very distinct worldviews. (shrink)
After qualifying in which sense ‘realism’ can be applied to eighteenth- century views about morality, I argue that while Kant shares with traditional moral realists several fundamental claims about morality, he holds that those claims must be argued for in a radically different way. Drawing on his diagnosis of the serious weaknesses of traditional moral realism, Kant proposes a novel approach that revolves around a hybrid view about moral obligation. Since his solution to that central issue combines elements of realism (...) with elements of voluntarist assent, Kant’s position can be characterized as an idealist version of moral realism or, more specifically, as the combination of a strong realism about the moral law with an idealist account of moral obligation. (shrink)
This paper examines the complexity and fluidity of maternal identity through an examination of narratives about "real motherhood" found in children's literature. Focusing on the multiplicity of mothers in adoption, I question standard views of maternity in which gestational, genetic and social mothering all coincide in a single person. The shortcomings of traditional notions of motherhood are overcome by developing a fluid and inclusive conception of maternal reality as authored by a child's own perceptions.