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The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme

In E. Sober (ed.), Conceptual Issues in Evolutionary Biology. The Mit Press. Bradford Books. pp. 73-90 (1979)

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  1. Analyzing the etiological functions of consciousness.Dylan Black - 2021 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 20 (1):191-216.
    Scientists disagree about which capacities a functional analysis of consciousness should target. To address this disagreement, I propose that a good functional analysis should target the etiological functions of consciousness. The trouble is that most hypotheses about the etiological origins of consciousness presuppose particular functional analyses. In recent years, however, a small number of scientists have begun to offer evolutionary hypotheses that are relatively theory neutral. I argue that their hypotheses can serve an independent standard for evaluating among theories of (...)
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  • Hayek's Theory of Cultural Evolution: An Evaluation in the Light of Vanberg's Critique: Geoffrey M. Hodgson.Geoffrey M. Hodgson - 1991 - Economics and Philosophy 7 (1):67-82.
    The application of evolutionary ideas to socioeconomic systems has been an increasingly prominent theme in the work of Friedrich Hayek, and the motif has become dominant in his recent book. In an earlier issue of this journal, Viktor Vanberg raises two substantive criticisms of Friedrich Hayek' theory of cultural evolution that invoke some important questions concerning use of the evolutionary analogy in social science.
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  • The zone of latent solutions and its relevance to understanding ape cultures.Claudio Tennie, Elisa Bandini, Carel P. Van Schaik & Lydia M. Hopper - 2020 - Biology and Philosophy 35 (5):1-42.
    The zone of latent solutions hypothesis provides an alternative approach to explaining cultural patterns in primates and many other animals. According to the ZLS hypothesis, non-human great ape cultures consist largely or solely of latent solutions. The current competing hypothesis for ape culture argues instead that at least some of their behavioural or artefact forms are copied through specific social learning mechanisms and that their forms may depend on copying. In contrast, the ape ZLS hypothesis does not require these forms (...)
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  • Cross-Cultural Universality of Knowledge Attributions.Yuan Yuan & Minsun Kim - forthcoming - Review of Philosophy and Psychology.
    We provide new findings that add to the growing body of empirical evidence that important epistemic intuitions converge across cultures. Specifically, we selected three recent studies conducted in the US that reported surprising effects of knowledge attribution among English speakers. We translated the vignettes used in those studies into Mandarin Chinese and Korean and then ran the studies with participants in Mainland China, Taiwan, and South Korea. We found that, strikingly, all three of the effects first obtained in the US (...)
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  • Critical Human Ecology: Historical Materialism and Natural Laws.Richard York & Philip Mancus - 2009 - Sociological Theory 27 (2):122-149.
    We lay the foundations for a critical human ecology that combines the strengths of the biophysical human ecology tradition in environmental sociology with those of historical materialism. We show the strengths of a critically informed human ecology by addressing four key meta-theoretical issues: materialist versus idealist approaches in the social sciences, dialectical versus reductionist analyses, the respective importance of historical and ahistorical causal explanations, and the difference between structural and functional interpretations of phenomena. CHE breaks with the idealism of Western (...)
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  • Against Simplicity and Cognitive Individualism: Nathaniel T. Wilcox.Nathaniel T. Wilcox - 2008 - Economics and Philosophy 24 (3):523-532.
    Neuroeconomics illustrates our deepening descent into the details of individual cognition. This descent is guided by the implicit assumption that “individual human” is the important “agent” of neoclassical economics. I argue here that this assumption is neither obviously correct, nor of primary importance to human economies. In particular I suggest that the main genius of the human species lies with its ability to distribute cognition across individuals, and to incrementally accumulate physical and social cognitive artifacts that largely obviate the innate (...)
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  • Natural Self-Interest, Interactive Representation, and the Emergence of Objects and Umwelt: An Outline of Basic Semiotic Concepts for Biosemiotics.Tommi Vehkavaara - 2003 - Sign Systems Studies 31 (2):547-586.
    In biosemiotics, life and living phenomena are described by means of originally anthropomorphic semiotic concepts. This can be justified if we can show that living systems as self-maintaining far from equilibrium systems create and update some kind of representation about the conditions of their self-maintenance. The point of view is the one of semiotic realism where signs and representations are considered as real and objective natural phenomena without any reference to the specifically human interpreter. It is argued that the most (...)
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  • Some Concerns Regarding Explanatory Pluralism: The Explanatory Role of Optimality Models.Gabriel Târziu - 2019 - Filozofia Nauki 28 (4):95-113.
    Optimality models are widely used in different parts of biology. Two important questions that have been asked about such models are: are they explanatory and, if so, what type of explanations do they offer? My concern in this paper is with the approach of Rice (2012, 2015) and Irvine (2015), who claim that these models provide non-causal explanations. I argue that there are serious problems with this approach and with the accounts of explanation it is intended to justify. The idea (...)
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  • Psychopathy, Adaptation, and Disorder.Daniel Brian Krupp, Lindsay A. Sewall, Martin L. Lalumière, Craig Sheriff & Grant T. Harris - 2013 - Frontiers in Psychology 4:1-5.
    In a recent study, we found a negative association between psychopathy and violence against genetic relatives. We interpreted this result as a form of nepotism and argued that it failed to support the hypothesis that psychopathy is a mental disorder, suggesting instead that it supports the hypothesis that psychopathy is an evolved life history strategy. This interpretation and subsequent arguments have been challenged in a number of ways. Here, we identify several misunderstandings regarding the harmful dysfunction definition of mental disorder (...)
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  • Engaging the Adaptive Subject: Learning Evolution Beyond the Cell Walls.Ramsey Affifi - 2020 - Biological Theory 15 (3):121-135.
    According to the modern synthesis, evolution is the gradual change of gene frequencies in a population. The MS is closely allied to adaptationist explanations of phenotypes, where organismic form and behavior is treated as previously selected for and owes its genesis to some remote past. However, some new theories of evolution broadly aligned with the extended evolutionary synthesis, in particular developmental plasticity theory and niche construction theory, foreground the fact that evolution is sometimes much more rapid than previously imagined, and (...)
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  • Character Identity Mechanisms: A Conceptual Model for Comparative-Mechanistic Biology.James DiFrisco, Alan C. Love & Günter P. Wagner - 2020 - Biology and Philosophy 35 (4):1-32.
    There have been repeated attempts in the history of comparative biology to provide a mechanistic account of morphological homology. However, it is well-established that homologues can develop from diverse sets of developmental causes, appearing not to share any core causal architecture that underwrites character identity. We address this challenge with a new conceptual model of Character Identity Mechanisms. ChIMs are cohesive mechanisms with a recognizable causal profile that allows them to be traced through evolution as homologues despite having a diverse (...)
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  • Evolutionary Epistemology.Ron Curtis - 1989 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 19 (1):95-102.
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  • Equal Rights for Swamp‐Persons.Louise Antony - 1996 - Mind and Language 11 (1):70-75.
  • What Can Evolutionary Theory Teach Us About Human Nature?Christopher Stephens - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 36 (1):221-232.
  • Conceptual Barriers to Progress Within Evolutionary Biology.Kevin Laland, John Odling-Smee, Marcus Feldman & Jeremy Kendal - 2009 - Foundations of Science 14 (3):195-216.
    In spite of its success, Neo-Darwinism is faced with major conceptual barriers to further progress, deriving directly from its metaphysical foundations. Most importantly, neo-Darwinism fails to recognize a fundamental cause of evolutionary change, “niche construction”. This failure restricts the generality of evolutionary theory, and introduces inaccuracies. It also hinders the integration of evolutionary biology with neighbouring disciplines, including ecosystem ecology, developmental biology, and the human sciences. Ecology is forced to become a divided discipline, developmental biology is stubbornly difficult to reconcile (...)
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  • Explanatory Independence and Epistemic Interdependence: A Case Study of the Optimality Approach.Angela Potochnik - 2010 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 61 (1):213-233.
    The value of optimality modeling has long been a source of contention amongst population biologists. Here I present a view of the optimality approach as at once playing a crucial explanatory role and yet also depending on external sources of confirmation. Optimality models are not alone in facing this tension between their explanatory value and their dependence on other approaches; I suspect that the scenario is quite common in science. This investigation of the optimality approach thus serves as a case (...)
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  • Optimality Modeling in a Suboptimal World.Angela Potochnik - 2009 - Biology and Philosophy 24 (2):183-197.
    The fate of optimality modeling is typically linked to that of adaptationism: the two are thought to stand or fall together (Gould and Lewontin, Proc Relig Soc Lond 205:581–598, 1979; Orzack and Sober, Am Nat 143(3):361–380, 1994). I argue here that this is mistaken. The debate over adaptationism has tended to focus on one particular use of optimality models, which I refer to here as their strong use. The strong use of an optimality model involves the claim that selection is (...)
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  • Introduction: A Primer on Adaptationism.Patrick Forber - 2009 - Biology and Philosophy 24 (2):155-159.
    Evolutionary biology, indeed any science that attempts to reconstruct prehistory, faces practical limitations on available data. These limitations create the problem of contrast failure: specific observations may fail to discriminate between rival evolutionary hypotheses. Assessing the risk of contrast failure provides a way to evaluate testing protocols in evolutionary science. Here I will argue that part of the methodological critique in the Spandrels paper involves diagnosing contrast failure problems. I then distinguish the problem of contrast failure from the more familiar (...)
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  • Seven Types of Adaptationism.Tim Lewens - 2009 - Biology and Philosophy 24 (2):161-182.
    Godfrey-Smith ( 2001 ) has distinguished three types of adaptationism. This article builds on his analysis, and revises it in places, by distinguishing seven varieties of adaptationism. This taxonomy allows us to clarify what is at stake in debates over adaptationism, and it also helps to cement the importance of Gould and Lewontin’s ‘Spandrels’ essay. Some adaptationists have suggested that their essay does not offer any coherent alternative to the adaptationist programme: it consists only in an exhortation to test adaptationist (...)
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  • Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Science.Christopher Hitchcock (ed.) - 2004 - Blackwell.
    Showcasing original arguments for well-defined positions, as well as clear and concise statements of sophisticated philosophical views, this volume is an ...
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  • Explanatory Pluralism in Evolutionary Biology.Kim Sterelny - 1996 - Biology and Philosophy 11 (2):193-214.
    The ontological dependence of one domain on another is compatible with the explanatory autonomy of the less basic domain. That autonomy results from the fact that the relationship between two domains can be very complex. In this paper I distinguish two different types of complexity, two ways the relationship between domains can fail to be transparent, both of which are relevant to evolutionary biology. Sometimes high level explanations preserve a certain type of causal or counterfactual information which would be lost (...)
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  • Panglossian Functionalism and the Philosophy of Mind.Elliott Sober - 1985 - Synthese 64 (August):165-93.
    I want to explore what happens to two philosophical issues when we assume that the mind, a functional device, is to be understood by the same sort of functional analysis that guides biological investigation of other organismic systems and characteristics. The first problem area concerns the concept of rationality, its connection with reliability and reproductive success, and the status of rationality hypotheses in attribution of beliefs. It has been argued that ascribing beliefs to someone requires the assumption that that person (...)
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  • Scientific Pluralism and the Plurality of the Sciences: Comments on David Hull’s S Cience as a Process.John Dupré - 1990 - Philosophical Studies 60 (1-2):61 - 76.
  • The Historical Turn in the Study of Adaptation.Paul E. Griffiths - 1996 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 47 (4):511-532.
    A number of philosophers and ‘evolutionary psychologists’ have argued that attacks on adaptationism in contemporary biology are misguided. These thinkers identify anti-adaptationism with advocacy of non-adaptive modes of explanation. They overlook the influence of anti-adaptationism in the development of more rigorous forms of adaptive explanation. Many biologists who reject adaptationism do not reject Darwinism. Instead, they have pioneered the contemporary historical turn in the study of adaptation. One real issue which remains unresolved amongst these methodological advances is the nature of (...)
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  • Evolution and Special Creation.Ernan Mc Mullin - 1993 - Zygon 28 (3):299-335.
    The logical relationships between the ideas of evolution and of special creation are explored here in the context of a recent paper by Alvin Plantinga claiming that from the perspective of biblical religion it is more likely than not that God acted in a “special” way at certain crucial moments in the long process whereby life developed on earth. I argue against this thesis, asking first under what circumstances the Bible might be thought relevant to an issue of broadly scientific (...)
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  • Replaying Life’s Tape.John Beatty - 2006 - Journal of Philosophy 103 (7):336-362.
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  • Gulliver’s Further Travels: The Necessity and Difficulty of a Hierarchical Theory of Selection.Stephen Jay Gould - 1998 - Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 353 (1366):307-314.
    For principled and substantially philosophical reasons, based largely on his reform of natural history by inverting the Paleyan notion of overarching and purposeful beneficence in the construction of organisms, Darwin built his theory of selection at the single causal level of individual bodies engaged in unconscious struggle for their own reproductive success. But the central logic of the theory allows selection to work effectively on entities at several levels of a genealogical hierarchy, provided that they embody a set of requisite (...)
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  • Indication and Adaptation.Peter Godfrey-Smith - 1992 - Synthese 92 (2):283-312.
    This paper examines the relationship between a family of concepts involving reliable correlation, and a family of concepts involving adaptation and biological function, as these concepts are used in the naturalistic semantic theory of Dretske's "Explaining Behavior." I argue that Dretske's attempt to marry correlation and function to produce representation fails, though aspects of his failure point the way forward to a better theory.
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  • On Fitness.Costas B. Krimbas - 2004 - Biology and Philosophy 19 (2):185-203.
    The concept of fitness, central to population genetics and to the synthetic theory of evolution, is discussed. After a historical introduction on the origin of this concept, the current meaning of it in population genetics is examined: a cause of the selective process and its quantification. Several difficulties arise for its exact definition. Three adequacy criteria for such a definition are formulated. It is shown that it is impossible to formulate an adequate definition of fitness respecting these criteria. The propensity (...)
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  • Evolution, Selection, and Cognition: From Learning to Parameter Setting in Biology and in the Study of Language.Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini - 1989 - Cognition 31 (1):1-44.
    Most biologists and some cognitive scientists have independently reached the conclusion that there is no such thing as learning in the traditional “instructive‘ sense. This is, admittedly, a somewhat extreme thesis, but I defend it herein the light of data and theories jointly extracted from biology, especially from evolutionary theory and immunology, and from modern generative grammar. I also point out that the general demise of learning is uncontroversial in the biological sciences, while a similar consensus has not yet been (...)
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  • From Developmental Constraint to Evolvability: How Concepts Figure in Explanation and Disciplinary Identity.Ingo Brigandt - 2015 - In Alan C. Love (ed.), Conceptual Change in Biology: Scientific and Philosophical Perspectives on Evolution and Development. Dordrecht: Springer. pp. 305-325.
    The concept of developmental constraint was at the heart of developmental approaches to evolution of the 1980s. While this idea was widely used to criticize neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory, critique does not yield an alternative framework that offers evolutionary explanations. In current Evo-devo the concept of constraint is of minor importance, whereas notions as evolvability are at the center of attention. The latter clearly defines an explanatory agenda for evolutionary research, so that one could view the historical shift from ‘developmental constraint’ (...)
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  • Units and Levels of Selection.Elisabeth Lloyd - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    The theory of evolution by natural selection is, perhaps, the crowning intellectual achievement of the biological sciences. There is, however, considerable debate about which entity or entities are selected and what it is that fits them for that role. This article aims to clarify what is at issue in these debates by identifying four distinct, though often confused, concerns and then identifying how the debates on what constitute the units of selection depend to a significant degree on which of these (...)
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  • Debunking Arguments in Metaethics and Metaphysics.Daniel Z. Korman - 2019 - In Alvin Goldman & Brian McLaughlin (eds.), Metaphysics and Cognitive Science. Oxford University Press. pp. 337-363.
    Evolutionary debunking arguments abound, but it is widely assumed that they do not arise for our perceptual beliefs about midsized objects, insofar as the adaptive value of our object beliefs cannot be explained without reference to the objects themselves. I argue that this is a mistake. Just as with moral beliefs, the adaptive value of our object beliefs can be explained without assuming that the beliefs are accurate. I then explore the prospects for other sorts of vindications of our object (...)
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  • Historical Evidence and Human Adaptations.Jonathan Kaplan - 2002 - Proceedings of the Philosophy of Science Association 69:S294-S304.
    Phylogenetic information is often necessary to distinguish between evolutionary scenarios. Recently, some prominent proponents of evolutionary psychology have acknowledged this, and have claimed that such evidence has in fact been brought to bear on adaptive hypotheses involving complex human psychological traits. Were this possible, it would be a valuable source of evidence regarding hypothesized adaptive traits in humans. However, the structure of the Hominidae family makes this difficult or impossible. For many traits of interest, the closest extant relatives to the (...)
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  • Simulationism and the Function(s) of Episodic Memory.Arieh Schwartz - 2020 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 11 (2):487-505.
    According to simulationism, the function of episodic memory is not to remember the past, but to help construct representations of possible future episodes, by drawing together features from different experiential sources. This article suggests that the relationship between the traditional storehouse view, on which the function of memory is remembering, and the simulationist approach is more complicated than has been typically acknowledged. This is attributed, in part, to incorrect interpretations of what remembering on the storehouse view requires. Further, by appeal (...)
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  • Extended Evolutionary Synthesis: Neither Synthesis Nor Extension.Claudio Ricardo Martins dos Reis & Leonardo Augusto Luvison Araújo - 2020 - Biological Theory 15 (2):57-60.
    The extended evolutionary synthesis intends to offer a new framework for understanding evolution based mainly on empirical and theoretical findings of current studies, including heredity and evolutionary developmental biology. In this essay, we present and develop the following objections about the terminology associated with the EES literature: despite using the term "extension," EES protagonists claim new evolutionary processes, reformulate conceptual networks, and modify central assumptions of the evolutionary synthesis. Therefore, the difference between ES and EES should not be described in (...)
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  • Is Art an Adaptation? Prospects for an Evolutionary Perspective on Beauty.Ronald De Sousa - 2004 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 62 (2):109–118.
  • The Evolutionary Explanation of What?Bengt Autzen - 2018 - Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics 11 (1):31-49.
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  • When Will a Darwinian Approach Be Useful for the Study of Society?Samuel Bagg - 2017 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 16 (3):259-281.
    In recent years, some have claimed that a Darwinian perspective will revolutionize the study of human society and culture. This project is viewed with disdain and suspicion, on the other hand, by many practicing social scientists. This article seeks to clear the air in this heated debate by dissociating two claims that are too often assumed to be inseparable. The first is the ‘ontological’ claim that Darwinian principles apply, at some level of abstraction, to human society and culture. The second (...)
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  • Blueprints, Swiss Army Knives, and Other Metaphors.Timothy Justus - 2004 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 8 (5):201-203.
    In this book review essay, Timothy Justus discusses The Birth of the Mind: How a Tiny Number of Genes Creates the Complexities of Human Thought (2004) by Gary Marcus. The review opens by contrasting the common architectural-blueprint metaphor for the genome with an alternative: the if-then statements of a computer program. The former leads to a seeming “gene shortage” problem while the latter are better suited to representing the cascades of genetic expression that give rise to exponential genotype-phenotype relationships. The (...)
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  • Action-based versus cognitivist perspectives on socio-cognitive development: culture, language and social experience within the two paradigms.Robert Mirski & Arkadiusz Gut - 2020 - Synthese 197 (12):5511-5537.
    Contemporary research on mindreading or theory of mind has resulted in three major findings: There is a difference in the age of passing of the elicited-response false belief task and its spontaneous–response version; 15-month-olds pass the latter while the former is passed only by 4-year-olds. Linguistic and social factors influence the development of the ability to mindread in many ways. There are cultures with folk psychologies significantly different from the Western one, and children from such cultures tend to show different (...)
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  • Truth in an Evolutionary Perspective.Carlos Blanco - 2014 - Scientia et Fides 2 (1):203-220.
    The perspective drawn from evolutionary science, undoubtedly one of the most remarkable intellectual achievements in our conception of the world, poses a deep challenge to epistemology and the meaning of truth. The present paper aims to examine the difficulties offered by the prevailing biological model for the emergence and development of mind in its attempt at constructing a possible philosophical theory of truth. We propose a solution which, while preserving the priority of the distinction between truth and falsehood, is nonetheless (...)
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  • The Philosophy of Generative Linguistics.Peter Ludlow - 2011 - Oxford University Press.
    Peter Ludlow presents the first book on the philosophy of generative linguistics, including both Chomsky's government and binding theory and his minimalist ...
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  • Could Evolution Explain Our Reliability About Logic?Joshua Schechter - 2013 - In Tamar Szabo Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Oxford Studies in Epistemology 4. pp. 214.
    We are reliable about logic in the sense that we by-and-large believe logical truths and disbelieve logical falsehoods. Given that logic is an objective subject matter, it is difficult to provide a satisfying explanation of our reliability. This generates a significant epistemological challenge, analogous to the well-known Benacerraf-Field problem for mathematical Platonism. One initially plausible way to answer the challenge is to appeal to evolution by natural selection. The central idea is that being able to correctly deductively reason conferred a (...)
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  • Reasoning About Dead Agents Reveals Possible Adaptive Trends.Jesse M. Bering, Katrina McLeod & Todd K. Shackelford - 2005 - Human Nature 16 (4):360-381.
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  • Reverse engineering and cognition panglossian memories?Jonathan Echeverri Álvarez & Liliana Chaves Castaño - 2014 - Ideas Y Valores 63 (155):145-170.
    Daniel C. Dennett ha dedicado una parte considerable de su obra a concebir una aplicación de la ingeniería inversa y el adaptacionismo para explicar la evolución de la mente humana. Dennet considera esta perspectiva como una posibilidad prometedora en el desarrollo de una psicología científica, en contraposición al "materialismo eliminacionista" de la neurociencia. En este artículo se expone una aproximación conceptual y se examina un antecedente filosófico en las discusiones sobre el adaptacionismo en biología y psicología evolutiva: la intencionalidad o (...)
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  • An Explication of the Causal Dimension of Drift.Peter Gildenhuys - 2009 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (3):521-555.
    Among philosophers, controversy over the notion of drift in population genetics is ongoing. This is at least partly because the notion of drift has an ambiguous usage among population geneticists. My goal in this paper is to explicate the causal dimension of drift, to say what causal influences are responsible for the stochasticity in population genetics models. It is commonplace for population genetics to oppose the influence of selection to that of drift, and to consider how the dynamics of populations (...)
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  • The Machine Conception of the Organism in Development and Evolution: A Critical Analysis.Daniel J. Nicholson - 2014 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 48:162-174.
    This article critically examines one of the most prevalent metaphors in modern biology, namely the machine conception of the organism (MCO). Although the fundamental differences between organisms and machines make the MCO an inadequate metaphor for conceptualizing living systems, many biologists and philosophers continue to draw upon the MCO or tacitly accept it as the standard model of the organism. This paper analyses the specific difficulties that arise when the MCO is invoked in the study of development and evolution. In (...)
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  • The Genomic Challenge to Adaptationism.Sahotra Sarkar - 2015 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (3):505-536.
    Since the late 1990s, the characterization of complete DNA sequences for a large and taxonomically diverse set of species has continued to gain in speed and accuracy. Sequence analyses have indicated a strikingly baroque structure for most eukaryotic genomes, with multiple repeats of DNA sequences and with very little of the DNA specifying proteins. Much of the DNA in these genomes has no known function. These results have generated strong interest in the factors that govern the evolution of genome architecture. (...)
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  • Schwerpunkt: Technische und organische Form – ein altes neues Problem?Marco Tamborini & Mathias Gutmann - 2020 - Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 68 (5):705-711.
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