Darwin's mistake: Explaining the discontinuity between human and nonhuman minds

Behavioral and Brain Sciences 31 (2):109-130 (2008)
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Abstract

Over the last quarter century, the dominant tendency in comparative cognitive psychology has been to emphasize the similarities between human and nonhuman minds and to downplay the differences as (Darwin 1871). In the present target article, we argue that Darwin was mistaken: the profound biological continuity between human and nonhuman animals masks an equally profound discontinuity between human and nonhuman minds. To wit, there is a significant discontinuity in the degree to which human and nonhuman animals are able to approximate the higher-order, systematic, relational capabilities of a physical symbol system (PSS) (Newell 1980). We show that this symbolic-relational discontinuity pervades nearly every domain of cognition and runs much deeper than even the spectacular scaffolding provided by language or culture alone can explain. We propose a representational-level specification as to where human and nonhuman animals' abilities to approximate a PSS are similar and where they differ. We conclude by suggesting that recent symbolic-connectionist models of cognition shed new light on the mechanisms that underlie the gap between human and nonhuman minds

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References found in this work

The Language of Thought.Jerry A. Fodor - 1975 - Harvard University Press.
The Principles of Psychology.William James - 1890 - London, England: Dover Publications.
The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex.Charles Darwin - 1898 - New York: Plume. Edited by Carl Zimmer.
Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics.Peter Strawson - 1959 - London, England: Routledge. Edited by Wenfang Wang.
The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture.Jerome H. Barkow, Leda Cosmides & John Tooby - 1992 - Oxford University Press. Edited by Jerome H. Barkow, Leda Cosmides & John Tooby.

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