Angry Rats and Scaredy Cats: Lessons from Competing Cognitive Homologies

Biological Theory 11 (4):224-240 (2016)
  Copy   BIBTEX


There have been several recent attempts to think about psychological kinds as homologies. Nevertheless, there are serious epistemic challenges for individuating homologous psychological kinds, or cognitive homologies. Some of these challenges are revealed when we look at competing claims of cognitive homology. This paper considers two competing homology claims that compare human anger with putative aggression systems of nonhuman animals. The competition between these hypotheses has been difficult to resolve in part because of what I call the boundary problem: boundaries between instances of psychological kinds (e.g., anger and fear) cannot be directly observed. Thus, there are distinctive difficulties for individuating psychological kinds across lineages. I draw four conclusions from this case study: First, recent evidence from the neuroscience of fear suggests that one of the proposed homologies involves a straightforward conflation of anger and fear. Second, this conflation arises because of the boundary problem. Third, there is an implicit constraint on the operational criteria that is easy to overlook in the psychological case. In this case, ignoring the constraint is part of the problem. Fourth, this is a clear case in which knowledge of homology cannot be accumulated piecemeal. Identifying homologs of human anger requires identifying homologs of fear.

Similar books and articles

Biological universals and the nature of fear.Mohan Matthen - 1998 - Journal of Philosophy 95 (3):105-132.
Homology across inheritance systems.Russell Powell & Nicholas Shea - 2014 - Biology and Philosophy 29 (6):781-806.
Essay: Homology.Ingo Brigandt - 2011 - The Embryo Project Encyclopedia.
Neural reuse and cognitive homology.Vincent Bergeron - 2010 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33 (4):268-269.
The phenomena of homology.Paul Edmund Griffiths - 2007 - Biology and Philosophy 22 (5):643-658.
Homology in comparative, molecular, and evolutionary developmental biology: The radiation of a concept.Ingo Brigandt - 2003 - Journal of Experimental Zoology (Molecular and Developmental Evolution) 299:9-17.
A Study of Virtuous and Vicious Anger.Zac Cogley - 2014 - In Kevin Timpe & Craig Boyd (eds.), Virtues and Their Vices. Oxford University Press. pp. 199.
Homology and the origin of correspondence.Ingo Brigandt - 2002 - Biology and Philosophy 17 (3):389–407.


Added to PP

554 (#18,747)

6 months
71 (#20,527)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Isaac Wiegman
Texas State University

References found in this work

The Emotions.Nico H. Frijda - 1986 - Cambridge University Press.
Basic emotions.Paul Ekman - 1999 - In Tim Dalgleish & M. J. Powers (eds.), Handbook of Cognition and Emotion. Wiley. pp. 4--5.
Brains and behavior.Hilary Putnam - 1963 - In Ronald J. Butler (ed.), Analytical Philosophy: Second Series. Blackwell.

View all 23 references / Add more references