Synthese 198 (3):2801-2820 (2019)

Authors
Lorenzo Baravalle
Universidade Federal do ABC
Abstract
Cultural evolutionary theory has been alternatively compared to a theory of forces, such as Newtonian mechanics, or the kinetic theory of gases. In this article, I clarify the scope and significance of these metatheoretical characterisations. First, I discuss the kinetic analogy, which has been recently put forward by Tim Lewens. According to it, cultural evolutionary theory is grounded on a bottom-up methodology, which highlights the additive effects of social learning biases on the emergence of large-scale cultural phenomena. Lewens supports this claim by arguing that it is a consequence of cultural evolutionists’ widespread commitment to population thinking. While I concur with Lewens that cultural evolutionists often actually conceive cultural change in aggregative terms, I think that the kinetic framework does not properly account for the explanatory import of population-level descriptions in cultural evolutionary theory. Starting from a criticism of Lewens’ interpretation of population thinking, I argue that the explanatory role of such descriptions is best understood within a dynamical framework—that is, a framework according to which cultural evolutionary theory is a theory of forces. After having spelled out the main features of this alternative interpretation, I elucidate in which respects it helps to outline a more accurate characterisation of the overarching structure of cultural evolutionary theory.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories No categories specified
(categorize this paper)
ISBN(s)
DOI 10.1007/s11229-019-02247-0
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 60,842
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Evolution, Population Thinking, and Essentialism.Elliott Sober - 1980 - Philosophy of Science 47 (3):350-383.
Natural Selection as a Population-Level Causal Process.Roberta L. Millstein - 2006 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57 (4):627-653.

View all 20 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Paris, California and the quest for a theory of cultural change.Lorenzo Baravalle - 2019 - Humanities Journal of Valparaiso 14:223-240.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Evolutionary and Newtonian Forces.Christopher Hitchcock & Joel D. Velasco - 2014 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 1:39-77.
Cultural Evolution: Conceptual Challenges.Tim Lewens - 2015 - Oxford University Press UK.
Cultural Evolution and the Variable Phenotype.William Harms - 1996 - Biology and Philosophy 11 (3):357-375.
Looking for Middle Ground in Cultural Attraction Theory.Andrew Buskell - 2019 - Evolutionary Anthropology 28 (1):14-17.
Cultural Attractor Theory and Explanation.Andrew Buskell - 2017 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 9 (13).
Evolutionary Theory and the Riddle of the Universe.Denny Borsboom - 2006 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 29 (4):351-351.
Understanding Cultural Fidelity.Mathieu Charbonneau - unknown - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (4):1209-1233.
Is Cultural Fitness Hopelessly Confused?Grant Ramsey & Andreas De Block - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (2).

Analytics

Added to PP index
2019-05-12

Total views
15 ( #663,337 of 2,438,909 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #434,842 of 2,438,909 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes