Mind the gap: a more evolutionarily plausible role for technical reasoning in cumulative technological culture

Synthese 199 (1-2):2467-2489 (2020)
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How do technologies that are too complex for any one individual to produce arise and persist in human populations? Contra prevailing views focusing on social learning, Osiurak and Reynaud argue that the primary driver for cumulative technological culture is our ability for technical reasoning. Whilst sympathetic to their overall position, we argue that two specific aspects of their account are implausible: first, that technical reasoning is unique to humans; and second, that technical reasoning is a necessary condition for the production of cumulative technological culture. We then present our own view, which keeps technical reasoning at the forefront but jettisons these conditions. This produces an account of cumulative technological culture that maintains an important role for technical reasoning, whilst being more evolutionarily plausible.



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