Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â No one owns 'culture'[i]:Â anyone with a viable theoretical proposal can contend for the right to determine that concept's fate.Â Not everyone agrees with this view.Â Throughout its century-long struggle for academic respectability, anthropology has regularly insisted on its unique role as the proprietor of 'culture.'Â Its variety of approaches and feuding factions notwithstanding, it is this proprietary claim that uniﬁes anthropology to an extent sometimes unrecognized even by its (...) own (post-modernist) practitioners.Â The history of anthropology has witnessed at least three important moments in the case for autonomous cultural phenomena based, ﬁrst, on traditional ontological and methodological presumptions, second, on the hermeneutic turn, and third, on postmodern analyses of discourses and their inﬂuences. Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Historically, anthropologists cite two closely related bases for these proprietary presumptions.Â The ﬁrst, which we shall not belabor here, hearkens to inevitably vague discussions about culture's autonomy (with various passes at making sense of the ontological foundations of that alleged autonomy).Â Cultural anthropologists have advanced such claims for a century, but Geertz' gloss on this topic is representative both in what it endorses and in the vagueness of the grounds for the endorsement.Â While advancing a host of claims about culture's ontological status (for example,Â (1) that culture is "ideational,"Â (2) that it, nonetheless, "does not exist in someone's head,"Â (3) that it has the same status--whatever that is--as a Beethoven quartet, andÂ (4) that it is "public"), Geertz insists that "the thing to ask . . . is not what . . . [its] ontological status is."Â (Geertz 1973: 10-12.)Â Unfortunately for Geertz and cultural anthropology generally, any convincing case for the autonomy of culture must account for its relations to the things that constitute it.Â Moreover, because Geertz never relinquishes anthropology's scientiﬁc aspirations, the issue of.... (shrink)
No one owns 'culture' [i]: anyone with a viable theoretical proposal can contend for the right to determine that concept's fate. Not everyone agrees with this view. Throughout its century long struggle for academic respectability, anthropology has regularly insisted on its unique role as the proprietor of 'culture.' Its variety of approaches and feuding factions notwithstanding, it is this proprietary claim that unifies anthropology to an extent sometimes unrecognized even by its own (post modernist) practitioners. The history of anthropology has (...) witnessed at least three important moments in the case for autonomous cultural phenomena based, first, on traditional ontological and methodological presumptions, second, on the hermeneutic turn, and third, on postmodern analyses of discourses and their influences. Historically, anthropologists cite two closely related bases for these proprietary presumptions. The first, which we shall not belabor here, hearkens to inevitably vague discussions about culture's autonomy (with various passes at making sense of the ontological foundations of that alleged autonomy). Cultural anthropologists have advanced such claims for a century, but Geertz' gloss on this topic is representative both in what it endorses and in the vagueness of the grounds for the endorsement. While advancing a host of claims about culture's ontological status (for example, (1) that culture is "ideational," (2) that it, nonetheless, "does not exist in someone's head," (3) that it has the same status -whatever that is -as a Beethoven quartet, and (4) that it is "public"), Geertz insists that "the thing to ask . . . is not what . . . [its] ontological status is." (Geertz 1973: 10 12.) Unfortunately for Geertz and cultural anthropology generally, any convincing case for the autonomy of culture must account for its relations to the things that constitute it. Moreover, because Geertz never relinquishes anthropology's scientific aspirations, the issue of clarifying such ontological questions.... (shrink)
Using a sample of seventy-seven countries, this paper focuses on marginal tax rates and the income thresholds at which they apply to examine how the tax changes of the 1980s and 1990s have influenced economic growth, the distribution of income, and the share of taxes paid by various income groups. Many countries substantially reduced their highest marginal rates during the 1985-1995 period. The findings indicate that countries that reduced their highest marginal rates grew more rapidly than those that maintained high (...) marginal rates. At the same time, the income distribution in several of the tax cutting countries became more unequal while there was little change or even a reduction in income inequality in most countries that maintained high marginal rates. Finally, the evidence suggests that there was a shift in the payment of the personal income tax away from those with low and middle incomes and toward those with the highest incomes. (shrink)
Theorizing about religious ritual systems from a cognitive viewpoint involves (1) modeling cognitive processes and their products and (2) demonstrating their influence on religious behavior. Particularly important for such an approach to the study of religious ritual is the modeling of participants' representations of ritual form. In pursuit of that goal, we presented in Rethinking Religion a theory of religious ritual form that involved two commitments. The theory’s first commitment is that the cognitive apparatus for the representation of action in (...) general is the same system deployed for the representation of religious ritual form. The differences between everyday action and religious ritual action turn out to be fairly minor from the standpoint of their cognitive representation. This system for the representation of action includes representations of agents. Whether we focus on an everyday action such as closing a door or a ritual action such as initiating a person into a religious group, our understanding of these forms of behavior as actions at all turns critically on recognizing agents. The theory's second crucial commitment (1990, p. 61) is that the roles of culturally postulated superhuman agents (CPS-agents hereafter) in participants' representations of religious rituals will prove pivotal in accounting for a wide variety of those rituals' properties. On our view religious ritual systems typically involve presumptions about CPS-agents. This theoretical commitment is orthogonal to the pervasive assumption throughout the study of religion that only meanings matter. By contrast, we hold that other things matter too (specifically, cognitive representations of religious ritual form). Large conflicts lurk behind the previous sentences but we cannot adequately address them here. For now we will only identify two of the most fundamental and comment on them briefly. First, amazingly (by our lights anyway), our claim that (conceptual) commitments to the existence of CPS-agents is the most important recurrent feature of religion across cultures is quite controversial.. (shrink)
Beauty pageants are ubiquitous around the world, and their importance in many cultures is indisputable. This paper empirically examines those factors that contribute to beauty pageant success in a cross-national setting. Our analysis pays particular attention to the role of market liberalism, i.e., economic freedom, in the process. The results indicate that nations with higher economic freedom scores are underrepresented among Miss Universe semifinalists after controlling for other relevant determinants.
Bringing Ritual to Mind explores the cognitive and psychological foundations of religious ritual systems. Participants must recall their rituals well enough to ensure a sense of continuity across performances, and those rituals must motivate them to transmit and re-perform them. Most religious rituals the world over exploit either high performance frequency or extraordinary emotional stimulation to enhance their recollection. But why do some rituals exploit the first of these variables while others exploit the second? McCauley and Lawson advance the (...) ritual form hypothesis, arguing that participants' cognitive representations of ritual form explain why. Reviewing evidence from cognitive, developmental and social psychology and from cultural anthropology and the history of religions, they utilize dynamical systems tools to explain the recurrent evolutionary trajectories religions exhibit. (shrink)
The aim of this chapter is to address the role of memory in past-life convictions. Although it is commonly accepted in the modern media - and popular western culture more generally - that people believe they have lived before because the memory contains detailed verifiable facts, little is known about how people actually reason about the veracity of their previous existence. To our knowledge, the current project is the most extensive research that probes the role of memory in past life (...) convictions. More specifically, we explore two questions. First, to what extent does memory lead to past-life belief, and is this conviction based on external validation or via the episodic sense of personal identity contained in the memory? Second, what is the conception of self on which one's current self is taken to be the same as the past-life self? -/- In what follows, we propose that memory plays an important role in convincing people that they have lived before. Fundamentally, this memory is episodic insofar as it represents the event as happened to the encoder. This memory contrasts with semantic memory - memory of facts...Further, we contend that it is the episodic sense of personal identity (rather than external validation) that typically contributes to the belief in a past life. Finally, we argue that the conception of self implicated in past-life belief is the non-trait conception. Of course, this fits naturally with the idea that the belief in a past life issues partly from the episodic sense of identity, since it is the non-trait conception of self that is implicated in the episodic sense of identity... -/- Our proposal in this chapter can be construed as a psychological extension of Reid's point in the context of past-life belief. People assume that they are the same person as someone in earlier times, despite large variations in the traits between those individuals, and they think this partly because of the testimony of their episodic memory. If our account is correct, then it makes the belief in a past life less bizarre, at least psychologically. For we are suggesting that the episodic sense of personal identity that led to your conviction that you existed at the time of your sixteenth birthday celebrations some decades ago, is also involved in other people's convictions that they existed 200 years ago. This proposal is also situated in recent cognitive approaches to the study of religion and religious experiences, which suggests that extraordinary convictions are often underpinned by the ordinary processes of social cognition (e.g. see Barrett 2000; Barrett 2007; Boyer 2001; Lawson and McCauley 1990; for reincarnation, see White Forthcoming-a,-b). (shrink)
The emergence of cognitive science over the past thirty years has stimulated new approaches to traditional problems and materials in well-established disciplines. Those approaches have generated new insights and reinvigorated aspirations for theories in the sciences of the socio-cultural (about the structures and uses of symbols and the cognitive processes underlying them) that are both more systematic and more accountable empirically than the recently available alternatives. Without rejecting interpretive proposals, projects in both the cognitive science of religion and in cognitive (...) archaeology seek to redress imbalances within those disciplines favoring the interpretive over the explanatory. (See Lawson and McCauley, 1990 and Renfrew, 1994a, respectively.) Both projects aim to reinvigorate scientific aspirations without reviving any sort of scientistic or explanatory exclusivism. Both have arisen, in part, in response to the science-bashing crusades that have enjoyed such prominence in both disciplines over the past twenty years. With the exception, perhaps, of linguistics, the influence of cognitive science has been as notable in archaeology and religious studies as it has been in any discipline in contemporary intellectual life. In both disciplines new sub-fields have begun to thrive, which take theoretical inspiration from cognitive science and, at least sometimes, deploy its findings and, in the case of the cognitive science of religion, even its methods in the course of testing their theories. This paper contains three sections. The first provides a framework for thinking about the constituents of culture as a means both for situating ritual and for considering its accessibility to cognitive and archaeological analysis. The second section outlines our theory of religious ritual competence and the ritual form hypothesis. The final section reviews the theory=s predictions about an assortment of properties of both individual religious rituals and religious ritual systems. It includes occasional speculations about some of the theory=s possible implications for some archaeological matters. A word of caution before we begin .. (shrink)
Levine's discussion of Rethinking Religion (1990) and "Crisis of Conscience, Riddle of Identity" (1993) includes some rash charges, some useful comments, and some profound misunderstandings. The latter, especially, reveal areas where we need to clarify and further defend our claims. In the second section we shall discuss the epistemological and methodological issues that Levine raises. Then we shall turn in the third section to theoretical and substantive matters. In fact, Levine remains almost completely silent on substantive matters (except to say (...) that our claims are "obvious" and "trite.") Levine claims, in effect, (1) that religion is outside of the scope of scientific analysis, (2) that our competence approach to theorizing is not necessary for generating the theoretical claims that we make, and (3) that the substantive consequences of those theoretical claims are obvious and trivial. We unequivocally reject the first and third claims and, Levine's profound misunderstandings about the competence approach to theorizing notwithstanding, completely agree with the second. Identifying the confusions in Levine's discussion that inform item (3) will clarify our position. We turn first, though, to matters of epistemology and method (as these bear on items (1) and (2)). (shrink)
Stakeholder theory has become a central issue in the literature on business ethics / business and society. There are, however, a number of problems with stakeholder theory as currently understood. Among these are: 1) the lack of a coherent justificatory framework, 2) the problem of adjudicating between stakeholders, and 3) the problem of stakeholder identification. In this essay, I propose that a possible source of obligations to stakeholders is the principle of fairness (or fair play) as discussed in the political (...) philosophic literature of Rawls, Simmons, and Cullity among others. The principle of fairness states that, “Whenever persons or groups of persons voluntarily accept the benefits of a mutually beneficial scheme of co-operation requiring sacrifice or contribution on the parts of the participants and there exists the possibility of free-riding, there exist obligations of fairness on the part of these persons or groups to co-operate in proportion to the benefits accepted.” In this essay I discuss the gaps in the current stakeholder literature, elucidate and defend a principle of fairness that fills the gap, compare the fairness model to other similar models of business ethics, and draw some conclusions for the future of stakeholder theory. (shrink)
Where does the mind begin and end? Most philosophers and cognitive scientists take the view that the mind is bounded by the skull or skin of the individual. Robert Wilson, in this provocative and challenging 2004 book, provides the foundations for the view that the mind extends beyond the boundary of the individual. The approach adopted offers a unique blend of traditional philosophical analysis, cognitive science, and the history of psychology and the human sciences. A forthcoming companion volume Genes (...) and the Agents of Life will explore the theme in the biological sciences. Written with verve and clarity, this ambitious book will appeal to a broad swathe of professionals and students in philosophy, psychology, cognitive science, and the history of the behavioural and human sciences. (shrink)
1. The Situation in Cognition 2. Situated Cognition: A Potted Recent History 3. Extensions in Biology, Computation, and Cognition 4. Articulating the Idea of Cognitive Extension 5. Are Some Resources Intrinsically Non-Cognitive? 6. Is Cognition Extended or Only Embedded? 7. Letting Nature Take Its Course.
Sociobiology developed in the 1960s as a field within evolutionary biology to explain human social traits and behaviours. Although sociobiology has few direct connections to eugenics, it shares eugenics’ optimistic enthusiasm for extending biological science into the human domain, often with reckless sensationalism. Sociobiology's critics have argued that sociobiology also propagates a kind of genetic determinism and represents the zealous misapplication of science beyond its proper reach that characterized the eugenics movement. More recently, evolutionary psychology represents a sophistication of sociobiology (...) that attends to the mind as the "missing link" between evolution and behaviour (Cosmides and Tooby 1992, Pinker 1997). (shrink)
Genes and the Agents of Life undertakes to rethink the place of the individual in the biological sciences, drawing parallels with the cognitive and social sciences. Genes, organisms, and species are all agents of life but how are each of these conceptualized within genetics, developmental biology, evolutionary biology, and systematics? The book includes highly accessible discussions of genetic encoding, species and natural kinds, and pluralism above the levels of selection, drawing on work from across the biological sciences. The book is (...) a companion to the author's Boundaries of the Mind, also available from Cambridge, where the focus is the cognitive sciences. The book will appeal to a broad range of professionals and students in philosophy, biology, and the history of science. (shrink)
This collection of original essays--by philosophers of biology, biologists, and cognitive scientists--provides a wide range of perspectives on species. Including contributions from David Hull, John Dupre, David Nanney, Kevin de Queiroz, and Kim Sterelny, amongst others, this book has become especially well-known for the three essays it contains on the homeostatic property cluster view of natural kinds, papers by Richard Boyd, Paul Griffiths, and Robert A. Wilson.
The computational argument for individualism, which moves from computationalism to individualism about the mind, is problematic, not because computationalism is false, but because computational psychology is, at least sometimes, wide. The paper provides an early, or perhaps predecessor, version of the thesis of extended cognition.
Are materially constituted entities, such as statues and glasses of liquid, something more than their material constituents? The puzzle that frames this paper stems from conflicting answers to this question. At the core of the paper is a distinctive way of thinking about material constitution that posits two concepts of constitution, compositional and ampliative constitution, with the bulk of the discussion devoted to developing distinct analyses for these concepts. Distinguishing these concepts solves our initial puzzle and enriches the space of (...) possibilities for constitution views. (shrink)
Dominant views of personal identity in philosophy take some kind of psychological continuity or connectedness over time to be criterial for the identity of a person over time. Such views assign psychological states, particularly those necessary for narrative memory of some kind, special importance in thinking about the nature of persons. The extended mind thesis, which has generated much recent discussion in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science, holds that a person’s psychological states can physically extend beyond that person’s (...) body. Since “person” is a term of both metaphysical and moral significance, and discussions of both extended minds and personal identity have often focused on memory, this article explores the relevance of extended cognition for the identity of persons with special attention to neuroethics and memory. (shrink)
While memory is conceptualized predominantly as an individual capacity in the cognitive and biological sciences, the social sciences have most commonly construed memory as a collective phenomenon. Collective memory has been put to diverse uses, ranging from accounts of nationalism in history and political science to views of ritualization and commemoration in anthropology and sociology. These appeals to collective memory share the idea that memory ‘‘goes beyond the individual’’ but often run together quite diﬀerent claims in spelling out that idea. (...) This paper reviews a sampling of recent work on collective memory in the light of emerging externalist views within the cognitive sciences, and through some reﬂection on broader traditions of thought in the biological and social sciences that have appealed to the idea that groups have minds. The paper concludes with some thoughts about the relationship between these kinds of cognitive metaphors in the social sciences and our notion of agency. (shrink)
The Eugenic Mind Project is a wide-ranging, philosophical book that explores and critiques both past and present eugenic thinking, drawing on the author’s intimate knowledge of eugenics in North America and his previous work on the cognitive, biological, and social sciences, the fragile sciences. Informed by the perspectives of Canadian eugenics survivors in the province of Alberta, The Eugenic Mind Project recounts the history of eugenics and the thinking that drove it, and critically engages contemporary manifestations of eugenic thought, newgenics. (...) An accessible, original work of scholarship adopting what the author calls a standpoint eugenics, this book focuses on the roots of eugenic thinking past and present. It will provoke and enrich discussions about human nature and human diversity, the social uses of biotechnology, and social policy governing future generations. (shrink)
"Amongst the human mind's proudest accomplishments is the invention of a science dedicated to understanding itself: cognitive science. ... This volume is an authoritative guide to this exhilarating new body of knowledge, written by the experts, edited with skill and good judment. If we were to leave a time capsule for the next millennium with records of the great achievements of civilization, this volume would have to be in it."--Steven Pinker.
The Architecture of the Mind is itself built on foundations that deserve probing. In this brief commentary I focus on these foundations—Carruthers’ conception of modularity, his arguments for thinking that the mind is massively modular in structure, and his view of human cognitive architecture.
Individuals are a prominent part of the biological world. Although biologists and philosophers of biology draw freely on the concept of an individual in articulating both widely accepted and more controversial claims, there has been little explicit work devoted to the biological notion of an individual itself. How should we think about biological individuals? What are the roles that biological individuals play in processes such as natural selection (are genes and groups also units of selection?), speciation (are species individuals?), and (...) organismic development (do genomes code for organisms)? Much of our discussion here will focus on organisms as a central kind of biological individual, and that discussion will raise broader questions about the nature of the biological world, for example, about its complexity, its organization, and its relation to human thought. (shrink)
This paper attempts to do two things. First, it recounts the problem of intentionality, as it has typically been conceptualized, and argues that it needs to be reconceptualized in light of the radical form of externalism most commonly referred to as the extended mind thesis. Second, it provides an explicit, novel argument for that thesis, what I call the argument from meaning making, and offers some defense of that argument. This second task occupies the core of the paper, and in (...) completing it I distinguish _active _ _cognition_ from _cyborg fantasy arguments_ for externalism, and develop the analogy between the extended mind thesis in the cognitive sciences and developmental systems theory in developmental biology. The rethinking of the problem of intentionality on offer leads not so much to a solution as to a dissolution of that problem, as traditionally conceived. (shrink)
This paper examines the standard view of realization operative incontemporary philosophy of mind, and proposes an alternative, generalperspective on realization. The standard view can be expressed, insummary form, as the conjunction of two theses, the sufficiency thesis andthe constitutivity thesis. Physicalists of both reductionist and anti-reductionist persuasions share a conception of realization wherebyrealizations are determinative of the properties they realize and physically constitutive of the individuals with those properties. Centralto the alternative view that I explore here is the idea that (...) the requisite,metaphysically robust notion of realization is ineliminably context-sensitive. I shall argue that the sufficiency and constitutivity theses aretypically not jointly satisfied by any one candidate realizer, and that goingcontext-sensitive in one's metaphysics is preferable to the standard view.The context-sensitive views developed here are implicit in a range ofcommon views in both the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of biology,even if they have not been explicitly articulated, and even though theyundermine other views that are commonly endorsed. (shrink)
Cognition is embodied when it is deeply dependent upon features of the physical body of an agent, that is, when aspects of the agent's body beyond the brain play a significant causal or physically constitutive role in cognitive processing. In general, dominant views in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science have considered the body as peripheral to understanding the nature of mind and cognition. Proponents of embodied cognitive science view this as a serious mistake. Sometimes the nature of the (...) dependence of cognition on the body is quite unexpected, and suggests new ways of conceptualizing and exploring the mechanics of cognitive processing. Embodied cognitive science encompasses a loose-knit family of research programs in the cognitive sciences that often share a commitment to critiquing and even replacing traditional approaches to cognition and cognitive processing. Empirical research on embodied cognition has exploded in the past 10 years. As the bibliography for this article attests, the various bodies of work that will be discussed represent a serious alternative to the investigation of cognitive phenomena. Relatively recent work on the embodiment of cognition provides much food for thought for empirically-informed philosophers of mind. This is in part because of the rich range of phenomena that embodied cognitive science has studied. But it is also in part because those phenomena are often thought to challenge dominant views of the mind, such as the computational and representational theories of mind, at the heart of traditional cognitive science. And they have sometimes been taken to undermine standard positions in the philosophy of mind, such as the idea that the mind is identical to, or even realized in, the brain. (shrink)
Vision constitutes an interesting domain, or range of domains, for debate over the extended mind thesis, the idea that minds physically extend beyond the boundaries of the body. In part this is because vision and visual experience more particularly are sometimes presented as a kind of line in the sand for what we might call externalist creep about the mind: once all reasonable concessions have been made to externalists about the mind, visual experience marks a line beyond which lies a (...) safe haven for individualists. Here I want to put a little more pressure on such a view of visual experience, as well as to offer a more constructive, positive argument in defense of the idea of extended vision. (shrink)
This paper considers ten questions that those puzzled by or skeptical of extended cognition have posed. Discussion of these questions ranges across substantive, methodological, and dialectical issues in the ongoing debate over extended cognition, such as whether the issue between proponents and opponents of extended cognition is merely semantic or a matter of convention; whether extended cognition should be treated in the same way as extended biology; and whether conscious mental states pose a special problem for the extended mind thesis. (...) Lethocerus, the giant water bug, will be a recurrent reference point for much of the discussion. (shrink)
This book presents the major teachings of Mahāyāna Buddhism in a precise, dramatic, and even humorous form. For two millennia this Sūtra, called the “jewel of the _Mahāyāna Sūtras_,” has enjoyed immense popularity among Mahāyāna Buddhists in India, central and southeast Asia, Japan, and especially China, where its incidents were the basis for a style in art and literature prevalent during several centuries. Robert Thurman’s translation makes available in relatively nontechnical English the Tibetan version of this key Buddhist scripture, (...) previously known to the English-speaking world only through translations from Chinese texts. The _Tibetan_ version is generally conceded to be more faithful to the original Sanskrit than are the Chinese texts. The Tibetan version also is clearer, richer, and more precise in its philosophical and psychological expression. The twelve books of the Sūtra are accompanied by an introduction and an epilogue by Dr. Thurman and by three glossaries: Sanskrit terms, numerical categories, and technical terms. (shrink)
The impressive variation amongst biological individuals generates many complexities in addressing the simple-sounding question what is a biological individual? A distinction between evolutionary and physiological individuals is useful in thinking about biological individuals, as is attention to the kinds of groups, such as superorganisms and species, that have sometimes been thought of as biological individuals. More fully understanding the conceptual space that biological individuals occupy also involves considering a range of other concepts, such as life, reproduction, and agency. There has (...) been a focus in some recent discussions by both philosophers and biologists on how evolutionary individuals are created and regulated, as well as continuing work on the evolution of individuality. (shrink)
In his paper ‘Miracles: metaphysics, physics, and physicalism’, 1 Kirk McDermid appears to have two primary goals. The first is to demonstrate that my account of how God might produce a miracle without violating any laws of nature is radically flawed. The second is to suggest two alternative accounts, one suitable for a deterministic world, one suitable for an indeterministic world, which allow for the occurrence of a miracle without violation of the laws of nature, yet do not suffer from (...) the defects of what McDermid terms the ‘Larmerian’ model. I briefly describe my model, reply to McDermid's criticism of it, and evaluate his alternative accounts. (shrink)
This paper argues that the metarepresentational systems we posses are wide or extended, rather than individualistic. There are two basic ideas. The first is that metarepresentation inherits its width from the mental representation of its objects. The second is that mental processing often operates on internal and external symbols, and this suggests that cognitive systems extend beyond the heads that house them.
This volume of twelve specially commissioned essays about species draws on the perspectives of prominent researchers from anthropology , botany, developmental psychology , the philosophy of biology and science, protozoology, and zoology . The concept of species has played a focal role in both evolutionary biology and the philosophy of biology , and the last decade has seen something of a publication boom on the topic (e.g., Otte and Endler 1989; Ereshefsky 1992b; Paterson 1994; lambert and Spence 1995; Claridge, Dawah, (...) and Wilson 1997; Wheeler and Meier 1999; Howard and Berlocher 1998). (shrink)
Despite the fact that the history of eugenics in Canada is necessarily part of the larger history of eugenics, there is a special role for oral history to play in the telling of this story, a role that promises to shift us from the muddled middle of the story. Not only has the testimony of eugenics survivors already played perhaps the most important role in revealing much about the practice of eugenics in Canada, but the willingness and ability of survivors (...) to share their own oral histories makes the situation in western Canada almost unique. Conversely, I also discuss the role that oral history plays in “surviving a eugenic past”, trading on the ambiguity of this phrase to reflect both on the survivorship of those who have been viewed as subhuman via some kind of eugenic lens and on the collective legacy with which Canada’s eugenic past presents us. (shrink)
In Wilson (2019), I articulated and defended a version of the Westermarck Effect by developing a phylogenetic argument that has purchase within primatology but that has had more limited appeal for cultural anthropologists due to their commitment to conventionalist or culture-first accounts of incest avoidance. Here I look to advance the discussion of incest and incest avoidance beyond culture-first accounts in two ways. First, I shall dig deeper into the disciplinary grooves within cultural anthropology that make attractive the view that (...) incest has a naturalness to it that is countered only or primarily by explicit social rules, such as taboos. Second I further explore the emerging, post-conventionalist view of incest avoidance in a more positive vein by elaborating on the nature of the Westermarckian mechanism and how it relates to such explicit social rules and our innate biological endowments. One general aim here is to overcome the bifurcation between perspectives that are seen as biological and those seen as cultural, pre-empting or countering the claim that rejecting culture-first accounts entails a form of biological reductionism, a general aim I have pursued in related publications on bioessentialism about kinship (Wilson 2016a, 2016b). (shrink)
I think there is something to be said in a positive and constructive vein about collective intentionality in non-human animals. Doing so involves probing at the concept of collective intentionality fairly directly (Section 2), considering the various forms that collective intentionality might take (Section 3), showing some sensitivity to the history of appeals to that concept and its close relatives (Section 4), and raising some broader questions about the relationships between sociality, cognition, and institutions by discussing two different possible cases (...) of collective intentionality in non-human animals: that of the social insects (Section 5) and that of highly social mammals, such as canines (Section 6). If the discussion here is on track, then the widely shared perspective on collective intentionality exemplified by the work of Searle and Tomasello needs to be reconsidered. (shrink)
We introduce two notions–the shadows and the shallows of explanation–in opening up explanation to broader, interdisciplinary investigation. The shadows of explanation refer to past philosophical efforts to provide either a conceptual analysis of explanation or in some other way to pinpoint the essence of explanation. The shallows of explanation refer to the phenomenon of having surprisingly limited everyday, individual cognitive abilities when it comes to explanation. Explanations are ubiquitous, but they typically are not accompanied by the depth that we might, (...) prima facie, expect. We explain the existence of the shadows and shallows of explanation in terms of there being a theoretical abyss between explanation and richer, theoretical structures that are often attributed to people. We offer an account of the shallows, in particular, both in terms of shorn-down, internal, mental machinery, and in terms of an enriched, public symbolic environment, relative to the currently dominant ways of thinking about cognition and the world. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to clear up the long-standing veritable mountain of misinterpretation, perpetuated from critic to critic, concerning the admittedly problematic concept of self-authenticating religious experience. While it may well be the case, as many have argued, that a sort of ‘experience’ about which one could not be mistaken is simply a logically impossible state of affairs, this cannot be known to be the case so long as what is under attack is a bogus concept, obviously absurd, (...) having nothing whatsoever to do with the correct interpretation of ‘self-authentication’. Hence, my mission herein is essentially that of philosophical analysis or clarification of meaning. Only upon suitable clarification of this concept will we be in a position to consider the question of its possible application, i.e. whether or not there could be an instantiation of such experience. I might point out that my central concern is somewhat more explicatory than historical, though I believe that the account developed in this paper is essentially congenial with the intent of those who have been proponents of the view that there can be self-authenticating religious experience. Let us begin, then, by turning to some representative criticism of the concept in question. (shrink)
In metaphysics, the view that material constitution is transitive is ubiquitous, an assumption expressed by both proponents and critics of constitution views. Likewise, it is typically assumed within the philosophy of mind that physical realization is a transitive relation. In both cases, this assumption of transitivity plays a role in discussion of the broader implications of a metaphysics that invokes either relation. Here I provide reasons for questioning this assumption and the uses to which this appeal to transitivity is put. (...) As my title suggests, I shall focus on the case of material constitution, using a brief discussion of realization at the outset to motivate the discussion of the transitivity of material constitution at the core of the paper. (shrink)
This chapter steps back from the important psychological work on collaborative remembering at the heart of the present volume to take up some broader questions about the place of memory in Western cultural thought, both historically and in contemporary society, offering the kind of integrative and reflective perspective for which philosophy is often known. In particular, the text aims to shed some light on the relationship between collaborative memory and the other two topics in this title—group-level cognizing and individuals—beginning with (...) the relationship between collective intentionality and collaborative remembering, and concluding with some brief comments on the politics of collaborative remembering by drawing on recent work that has been undertaken with eugenics survivors in Canada. (shrink)
In Anselm's Discovery , Professor Hartshorne makes the rather startling and counterintuitive claim that ‘…there is indeed no issue between theism and pantheism. We all exist in the divine being, as St Paul said.’ 1 Classical or orthodox theists, it seems eminently fair to say, can be expected to recoil from any such suggestion with more than a little indignation. First of all, it might well be objected that Hartshorne - as a ‘process theist’ - is not a classical theist, (...) and, consequently, while there may be no issue between pantheism and his brand of theism, such is simply not the case in so far as classical theism is concerned. According to the latter - in contradistinction, of course, to Hartshorne's ‘neoclassical theism’ - immutability is an ‘essential’ property of God; as such, it would be a conceptual error to ascribe any contingent states to God at all. Now as is well known by philosophers of religion, Hartshorne regards this immutability doctrine of classical theism as a serious ‘logical blunder’ , one which - in so far as it reflects the ‘Greek bias’ which has always identified perfection with the absolutely unchangeable - is profoundly distortive of the biblical concept of Deity. (shrink)
Projects of human improvement take both individual and intergenerational forms. The biosciences provide many technologies, including prenatal screening and the latest gene editing techniques, such as CRISPR, that have been viewed as providing the means to human improvement across generations. But who is fit to furnish the next generation? Historically, eugenics epitomizes the science-based attempt to improve human society through distinguishing kinds of people and then implementing social policies—from immigration restriction to sexual sterilization and euthanasia—that influence and even direct what (...) sorts of people populate our future. Despite recognition of the horrors of the eugenic extremes of the past and of the subhumanizing of those sufficiently below appearance or ability norms to be viewed as “defective” or “unfit”, many people continue to be drawn to strands of eugenic thinking. (shrink)