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Johan De Smedt
University of Ghent
  1. Mathematical Symbols as Epistemic Actions.Johan De Smedt & Helen De Cruz - 2013 - Synthese 190 (1):3-19.
    Recent experimental evidence from developmental psychology and cognitive neuroscience indicates that humans are equipped with unlearned elementary mathematical skills. However, formal mathematics has properties that cannot be reduced to these elementary cognitive capacities. The question then arises how human beings cognitively deal with more advanced mathematical ideas. This paper draws on the extended mind thesis to suggest that mathematical symbols enable us to delegate some mathematical operations to the external environment. In this view, mathematical symbols are not only used to (...)
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  2. A Natural History of Natural Theology. The Cognitive Science of Theology and Philosophy of Religion.Helen De Cruz & Johan De Smedt - 2015 - MIT Press.
    [from the publisher's website] Questions about the existence and attributes of God form the subject matter of natural theology, which seeks to gain knowledge of the divine by relying on reason and experience of the world. Arguments in natural theology rely largely on intuitions and inferences that seem natural to us, occurring spontaneously—at the sight of a beautiful landscape, perhaps, or in wonderment at the complexity of the cosmos—even to a nonphilosopher. In this book, Helen De Cruz and Johan De (...)
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  3. Cognitive Science of Religion and the Nature of the Divine: A Pluralist Non-Confessional Approach.Johan De Smedt & Helen De Cruz - 2020 - In Jerry L. Martin (ed.), Theology without walls: The transreligious imperative. New York, USA: Taylor and Francis. pp. 128-137.
    According to cognitive science of religion (CSR) people naturally veer toward beliefs that are quite divergent from Anselmian monotheism or Christian theism. Some authors have taken this view as a starting point for a debunking argument against religion, while others have tried to vindicate Christian theism by appeal to the noetic effects of sin or the Fall. In this paper, we ask what theologians can learn from CSR about the nature of the divine, by looking at the CSR literature and (...)
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  4. Is Intuitive Teleological Reasoning Promiscuous?Johan De Smedt & Helen De Cruz - 2020 - In William Gibson, Dan O'brien & Marius Turda (eds.), Teleology and Modernity. Abingdon and New York: Routledge. pp. 185-202.
    Humans have a tendency to reason teleologically. This tendency is more pronounced under time pressure, in people with little formal schooling and in patients with Alzheimer’s. This has led some cognitive scientists of religion, notably Kelemen, to call intuitive teleological reasoning promiscuous, by which they mean teleology is applied to domains where it is unwarranted. We examine these claims using Kant’s idea of the transcendental illusion in the first Critique and his views on the regulative function of teleological reasoning in (...)
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  5. A Cognitive Approach to the Earliest Art.Johan De Smedt & Helen3 De Cruz - 2011 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 69 (4):379-389.
    This paper takes a cognitive perspective to assess the significance of some Late Palaeolithic artefacts (sculptures and engraved objects) for philosophicalconcepts of art. We examine cognitive capacities that are necessary to produceand recognize objects that are denoted as art. These include the ability toattribute and infer design (design stance), the ability to distinguish between themateriality of an object and its meaning (symbol-mindedness), and an aesthetic sensitivity to some perceptual stimuli. We investigate to what extent thesecognitive processes played a role in (...)
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  6. The Epistemic Value of Speculative Fiction.Johan De Smedt & Helen De Cruz - 2015 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 39 (1):58-77.
    Speculative fiction, such as science fiction and fantasy, has a unique epistemic value. We examine similarities and differences between speculative fiction and philosophical thought experiments in terms of how they are cognitively processed. They are similar in their reliance on mental prospection, but dissimilar in that fiction is better able to draw in readers (transportation) and elicit emotional responses. By its use of longer, emotionally poignant narratives and seemingly irrelevant details, speculative fiction allows for a better appraisal of the consequences (...)
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  7. Evolutionary Approaches to Epistemic Justification.Helen de Cruz, Maarten Boudry, Johan de Smedt & Stefaan Blancke - 2011 - Dialectica 65 (4):517-535.
    What are the consequences of evolutionary theory for the epistemic standing of our beliefs? Evolutionary considerations can be used to either justify or debunk a variety of beliefs. This paper argues that evolutionary approaches to human cognition must at least allow for approximately reliable cognitive capacities. Approaches that portray human cognition as so deeply biased and deficient that no knowledge is possible are internally incoherent and self-defeating. As evolutionary theory offers the current best hope for a naturalistic epistemology, evolutionary approaches (...)
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  8. Evolved Cognitive Biases and the Epistemic Status of Scientific Beliefs.Helen3 De Cruz & Johan De Smedt - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 157 (3):411-429.
    Our ability for scientific reasoning is a byproduct of cognitive faculties that evolved in response to problems related to survival and reproduction. Does this observation increase the epistemic standing of science, or should we treat scientific knowledge with suspicion? The conclusions one draws from applying evolutionary theory to scientific beliefs depend to an important extent on the validity of evolutionary arguments (EAs) or evolutionary debunking arguments (EDAs). In this paper we show through an analytical model that cultural transmission of scientific (...)
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  9. Reformed and Evolutionary Epistemology and the Noetic Effects of Sin.Helen De Cruz & Johan De Smedt - 2013 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 74 (1):49-66.
    Despite their divergent metaphysical assumptions, Reformed and evolutionary epistemologists have converged on the notion of proper basicality. Where Reformed epistemologists appeal to God, who has designed the mind in such a way that it successfully aims at the truth, evolutionary epistemologists appeal to natural selection as a mechanism that favors truth-preserving cognitive capacities. This paper investigates whether Reformed and evolutionary epistemological accounts of theistic belief are compatible. We will argue that their chief incompatibility lies in the noetic effects of sin (...)
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    Evolved Cognitive Biases and the Epistemic Status of Scientific Beliefs.Helen3 De Cruz & Johan De Smedt - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 157 (3):411 - 429.
    Our ability for scientific reasoning is a byproduct of cognitive faculties that evolved in response to problems related to survival and reproduction. Does this observation increase the epistemic standing of science, or should we treat scientific knowledge with suspicion? The conclusions one draws from applying evolutionary theory to scientific beliefs depend to an important extent on the validity of evolutionary arguments (EAs) or evolutionary debunking arguments (EDAs). In this paper we show through an analytical model that cultural transmission of scientific (...)
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  11. The Role of Intuitive Ontologies in Scientific Understanding – the Case of Human Evolution.Helen De Cruz & Johan De Smedt - 2007 - Biology and Philosophy 22 (3):351-368.
    Psychological evidence suggests that laypeople understand the world around them in terms of intuitive ontologies which describe broad categories of objects in the world, such as ‘person’, ‘artefact’ and ‘animal’. However, because intuitive ontologies are the result of natural selection, they only need to be adaptive; this does not guarantee that the knowledge they provide is a genuine reflection of causal mechanisms in the world. As a result, science has parted ways with intuitive ontologies. Nevertheless, since the brain is evolved (...)
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  12. Paley's Ipod: The Cognitive Basis of the Design Argument Within Natural Theology.Helen3 De Cruz & Johan De Smedt - 2010 - Zygon 45 (3):665-684.
    The argument from design stands as one of the most intuitively compelling arguments for the existence of a divine Creator. Yet, for many scientists and philosophers, Hume's critique and Darwin's theory of natural selection have definitely undermined the idea that we can draw any analogy from design in artifacts to design in nature. Here, we examine empirical studies from developmental and experimental psychology to investigate the cognitive basis of the design argument. From this it becomes clear that humans spontaneously discern (...)
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  13. Delighting in Natural Beauty: Joint Attention and the Phenomenology of Nature Aesthetics.Johan De Smedt & Helen De Cruz - 2013 - European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 5 (4):167-186.
    Empirical research in the psychology of nature appreciation suggests that humans across cultures tend to evaluate nature in positive aesthetic terms, including a sense of beauty and awe. They also frequently engage in joint attention with other persons, whereby they are jointly aware of sharing attention to the same event or object. This paper examines how, from a natural theological perspective, delight in natural beauty can be conceptualized as a way of joining attention to creation. Drawing on an analogy between (...)
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  14. The Innateness Hypothesis and Mathematical Concepts.Helen3 De Cruz & Johan De Smedt - 2010 - Topoi 29 (1):3-13.
    In historical claims for nativism, mathematics is a paradigmatic example of innate knowledge. Claims by contemporary developmental psychologists of elementary mathematical skills in human infants are a legacy of this. However, the connection between these skills and more formal mathematical concepts and methods remains unclear. This paper assesses the current debates surrounding nativism and mathematical knowledge by teasing them apart into two distinct claims. First, in what way does the experimental evidence from infants, nonhuman animals and neuropsychology support the nativist (...)
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  15.  87
    The Imago Dei as a Work in Progress: A Perspective From Paleoanthropology.Johan De Smedt & Helen De Cruz - 2014 - Zygon 49 (1):135-156.
    This article considers the imago Dei from the perspective of paleoanthropology. We identify structural, functional, and relational elements of the imago Dei that emerged mosaically during human evolution. Humans are unique in their ability to relate to each other and to God, and in their membership of cultural communities where shared attention, the transmission of moral norms, and symbolic behavior are important elements. We discuss similarities between our approach and the concept of theosis adopted in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
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  16. Intuitions and Arguments: Cognitive Foundations of Argumentation in Natural Theology.Helen De Cruz & Johan De Smedt - 2017 - European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 9 (2):57-82.
    This paper examines the cognitive foundations of natural theology: the intuitions that provide the raw materials for religious arguments, and the social context in which they are defended or challenged. We show that the premises on which natural theological arguments are based rely on intuitions that emerge early in development, and that underlie our expectations for everyday situations, e.g., about how causation works, or how design is recognized. In spite of the universality of these intuitions, the cogency of natural theological (...)
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  17. Cognitive Modularity in the Light of the Language Faculty.Johan De Smedt - 2009 - Logique Et Analyse 52 (208):373-387.
    Ever since Chomsky, language has become the paradigmatic example of an innate capacity. Infants of only a few months old are aware of the phonetic structure of their mother tongue, such as stress-patterns and phonemes. They can already discriminate words from non-words and acquire a feel for the grammatical structure months before they voice their first word. Language reliably develops not only in the face of poor linguistic input, but even without it. In recent years, several scholars have extended this (...)
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  18.  1
    Science as Structured Imagination.Helen De Cruz & Johan De Smedt - 2010 - Journal of Creative Behavior 44 (1):29-44.
    This paper offers an analysis of scientific creativity based on theoretical models and experimental results of the cognitive sciences. Its core idea is that scientific creativity - like other forms of creativity - is structured and constrained by prior ontological expectations. Analogies provide scientists with a powerful epistemic tool to overcome these constraints. While current research on analogies in scientific understanding focuses on near analogies - where target and source domain are close - we argue that distant analogies where target (...)
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  19.  28
    Evolved to Be Irrational?: Evolutionary and Cognitive Foundations of Pseudosciences.Stefaan Blancke & Johan De Smedt - 2013 - In Massimo Pigliucci & Maarten Boudry (eds.), Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem. University of Chicago Press.
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    The Implications of the Cognitive Sciences for the Relation Between Religion and Science Education: The Case of Evolutionary Theory.Stefaan Blancke, Johan De Smedt, Helen De Cruz, Maarten Boudry & Johan Braeckman - 2012 - Science & Education 21 (8):1167-1184.
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    The Cognitive Appeal of the Cosmological Argument.Johan De Smedt & Helen3 De Cruz - unknown
    The cosmological argument has enjoyed and still enjoys substantial popularity in various traditions of natural theology. We propose that its enduring appeal is due at least in part to its concurrence with human cognitive predispositions, in particular intuitions about causality and agency. These intuitions seem to be a stable part of human cognition. We will consider implications for the justification of the cosmological argument from externalise and internalise perspectives.
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  22. Het 'Universele Zuur' van de Evolutionaire Psychologie?Maarten Boudry, Helen De Cruz, Stefaan Blancke & Johan De Smedt - 2011 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 73 (2):287-305.
    In a previous issue of Tijdschrift voor Filosofie, Filip Buekens argues that evolutionary psychology (EP), or some interpretations thereof, have a corrosive impact on our ‘manifest self-image’. Buekens wants to defend and protect the global adequacy of this manifest self-image in the face of what he calls evolutionary revisionism. Although we largely agree with Buekens’ central argument, we criticize his analysis on several accounts, making some constructive proposals to strengthen his case. First, Buekens’ argument fails to target EP, because his (...)
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  23.  1
    The Role of Material Culture in Human Time Representation: Calendrical Systems as Extensions of Mental Time Travel.Johan De Smedt & Helen De Cruz - 2011 - Adaptive Behavior 19 (1):63 - 76.
    Humans have cognitive mechanisms that allow them to keep track of time, represent past events, and simulate the future, but these capacities have intrinsic constraints. Here, we explore the role of material culture as an extension of internal time representations through anthropological and archeological case studies, focusing on Upper Paleolithic material culture. We argue that calendars complement and extend internal time representations, because they enable humans to project past events into the future more accurately than is possible with episodic memory (...)
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    The Artistic Design Stance and the Interpretation of Paleolithic Art.Johan De Smedt & Helen De Cruz - 2013 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 36 (2):139-140.
    The artistic design stance is an important part of art appreciation, but it remains unclear how it can be applied to artworks for which art historical context is no longer available, such as Ice Age art. We propose that some of the designer's intentions can be gathered noninferentially through direct experience with prehistoric artworks.
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    Why the Human Brain is Not an Enlarged Chimpanzee Brain.Johan De Smedt, Helen De Cruz & Johan Braeckman - 2009 - In H. Høgh-Olesen, J. Tønnesvang & P. Bertelsen (eds.), Human Characteristics: Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Mind and Kind. Cambridge: pp. 168-181.
    Following Darwin, many comparative psychologists assume that the human mind is a kind of ape mind, differing only in degree from the extant apes – we call this the mental continuity assumption. However, the continuity principle in evolutionary theory does not posit continuity between extant closely related species, but between extant species and their extinct ancestors. Thus, it is possible that some human cognitive capacities have no parallels in extant apes, but that they emerged in extinct hominid species after the (...)
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  26.  21
    Common Minds, Uncommon Thoughts: A Philosophical Anthropological Investigation of Uniquely Human Creative Behavior, with an Emphasis on Artistic Ability, Religious Reflection, and Scientific Study.Johan De Smedt - unknown
    The aim of this dissertation is to create a naturalistic philosophical picture of creative capacities that are specific to our species, focusing on artistic ability, religious reflection, and scientific study. By integrating data from diverse domains within a philosophical anthropological framework, I have presented a cognitive and evolutionary approach to the question of why humans, but not other animals engage in such activities. Through an application of cognitive and evolutionary perspectives to the study of these behaviors, I have sought to (...)
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    Toward an Integrative Approach of Cognitive Neuroscientific and Evolutionary Psychological Studies of Art.Johan De Smedt & Helen De Cruz - 2010 - Evolutionary Psychology 8 (4):695 - 719.
    This paper examines explanations for human artistic behavior in two reductionist research programs, cognitive neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. Despite their different methodological outlooks, both approaches converge on an explanation of art production and appreciation as byproducts of normal perceptual and motivational cognitive skills that evolved in response to problems originally not related to art, such as the discrimination of salient visual stimuli and speech sounds. The explanatory power of this reductionist framework does not obviate the need for higher-level accounts of (...)
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  28. The Challenge of Evolution to Religion.Johan De Smedt & Helen De Cruz - 2020 - Cambridge University Press.
    This Element focuses on three challenges of evolution to religion: teleology, human origins, and the evolution of religion itself. First, religious worldviews tend to presuppose a teleological understanding of the origins of living things, but scientists mostly understand evolution as non-teleological. Second, religious and scientific accounts of human origins do not align in a straightforward sense. Third, evolutionary explanations of religion, including religious beliefs and practices, may cast doubt on their justification. We show how these tensions arise and offer potential (...)
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