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)
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.
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)
The view that it is better for life to be created free of disability is pervasive in both common sense and philosophy. We cast doubt on this view by focusing on an influential line of thinking that manifests it. That thinking begins with a widely-discussed principle, Procreative Beneficence, and draws conclusions about parental choice and disability. After reconstructing two versions of this argument, we critique the first by exploring the relationship between different understandings of well-being and disability, and the second (...) by more briefly focusing on the idea of a significant reason. By placing these results against the broader historical and ongoing contexts in which the lives of those with disabilities have been deemed of inferior quality, we conclude with a call for greater humility about disability and well-being in thought and practice. (shrink)
Essentialism is widely regarded as a mistaken view of biological kinds, such as species. After recounting why (sections 2-3), we provide a brief survey of the chief responses to the “death of essentialism” in the philosophy of biology (section 4). We then develop one of these responses, the claim that biological kinds are homeostatic property clusters (sections 5-6) illustrating this view with several novel examples (section 7). Although this view was first expressed 20 years ago, and has received recent discussion (...) and critique, it remains underdeveloped and is often misrepresented by its critics (section 8). (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)
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 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 this paper, we aim to show that the framework of embedded, distributed, or extended cognition offers new perspectives on social cognition by applying it to one specific domain: the psychology of memory. In making our case, first we specify some key social dimensions of cognitive distribution and some basic distinctions between memory cases, and then describe stronger and weaker versions of distributed remembering in the general distributed cognition framework. Next, we examine studies of social influences on memory in cognitive (...) psychology, and identify the valuable concepts and methods to be extended and embedded in our framework; we focus in particular on three related paradigms: transactive memory, collaborative recall, and social contagion. Finally, we sketch our own early studies of individual and group memory developed within our framework of distributed cognition, on social contagion of autobiographical memories, collaborative flashbulb memories, and memories of high school at a high school reunion. We see two reciprocal benefits of this conceptual and empirical framework to social memory phenomena: that ideas about distributed cognition can be honed against and tested with the help of sophisticated methods in the social cognitive psychology of memory; and conversely, that a range of social memory phenomena that are as yet poorly understood can be approached afresh with theoretically motivated extensions of existing empirical paradigms. (shrink)
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.
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)
Fodor's thinking on modularity has been influential throughout a range of the areas studying cognition, chiefly as a prod for positive work on modularity and domain-specificity. In _The Mind Doesn't Work That Way_, Fodor has developed the dark message of _The Modularity of Mind_ regarding the limits to modularity and computational analyses. This paper offers a critical assessment of Fodor's scepticism with an eye to highlighting some broader issues in play, including the nature of computation and the role of recent (...) empirical developments in the cognitive sciences in assessing Fodor's position. (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)
In this article, I reconsider bio-essentialism in the study of kinship, centering on David Schneider’s influential critique that concluded that kinship was “a non-subject” (1972:51). Schneider’s critique is often taken to have shown the limitations of and problems with past views of kinship based on biology, genealogy, and reproduction, a critique that subsequently led those reworking kinship as relatedness in the new kinship studies to view their enterprise as divorced from such bio-essentialist studies. Beginning with an alternative narrative connecting kinship (...) past and present and concluding by introducing a novel way of thinking about kinship, I have three constituent aims in this research article: (1) to reconceptualize the relationship between kinship past and kinship present; (2) to reevaluate Schneider’s critique of bio-essentialism and what this implies for the contemporary study of kinship; and (3) subsequently to redirect theoretical discussion of what kinship is. This concluding discussion introduces a general view, the homeostatic property cluster (HPC) view of kinds, into anthropology, providing a theoretical framework that facilitates realization of the often-touted desideratum of the integration of biological and social features of kinship. [bio-essentialism, kinship studies, homeostatic property cluster kinds, Schneider, genealogy]. (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.
In the intersection between eugenics past and present, disability has never been far beneath the surface. Perceived and ascribed disabilities of body and mind were one of the core sets of eugenics traits that provided the basis for institutionalized and sterilization on eugenic grounds for the first 75 years of the 20th-century. Since that time, the eugenic preoccupation with the character of future generations has seeped into what have become everyday practices in the realm of reproductive choice. As Marsha Saxton (...) (2000) and Adrienne Asch (2000, 2003) have forcefully argued, the use of prenatal screening technologies to facilitate the selective abortion of fetuses with features that signify disabling traits—the paradigm here being trisomy 21 in a fetus indicating Down Syndrome in the child—express a negative view of such disabilities sufficient to warrant terminating an otherwise wanted pregnancy. The eliminative structure of what Rosemary Garland Thompson (2012) has called eugenic logic persists in contemporary practices governing reproductive choice, social inclusion, and democratic participation and their relationship to disability. The tie between eugenics and contemporary disability studies suggests that eugenics and reflection on its history can also play a more positive role in disability politics. After focusing on eugenics in the first half of the paper, we will shift in the second half of the paper to eugenic resonances in contemporary thought and practice, concluding with some thoughts about ongoing practices of silencing and the very idea of eradicating disability. (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)
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)
This book offers the first sustained critique of individualism in psychology, a view that has been the subject of debate between philosophers such as Jerry Fodor and Tyler Burge for many years. The author approaches individualism as an issue in the philosophy of science and by discussing issues such as computationalism and the mind's modularity he opens the subject up for non-philosophers in psychology and computer science. Professor Wilson carefully examines the most influential arguments for individualism and identifies the main (...) metaphysical assumptions underlying them. Since the topic is so central to the philosophy of mind, a discipline generating enormous research and debate at present, the book has implications for a very broad range of philosophical issues including the naturalisation of intentionality, psychophysical supervenience, the nature of mental causation, and the viability of folk psychology. (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)
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)
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)
The Eugenic Mind Project explores and critiques both past and present eugenic thinking. Informed by the perspectives of Canadian eugenics survivors in the province of Alberta and standpoint theory, The Eugenic Mind Project draws on both my intimate acquaintance with eugenics in Canada and my previous thinking about the cognitive, biological, and social sciences, the fragile sciences, in Boundaries of the Mind (2004) and Genes and the Agents of Life (2005). It recounts the history of eugenics and the thinking that (...) drove it, and critically engages contemporary manifestations of eugenic thought, newgenics. Accessible to philosophers of the biological and social sciences, historians of science and medicine, bioethicists, and those working on race, disability, or gender, the book aims to enrich ongoing discussions about human nature and human diversity, the social uses of biotechnology, and social policies governing future generations. (shrink)
A far-reaching and influential view in evolutionary biology claims that species are cohesive units held together by gene flow. Biologists have recognized empirical problems facing this view; after sharpening the expression of the view, we present novel conceptual problems for it. At the heart of these problems is a distinction between two importantly different concepts of cohesion, what we call integrative and response cohesion. Acknowledging the distinction problematizes both the explanandum of species cohesion and the explanans of gene flow that (...) are central to the view we discuss. We conclude by tracing four broader implications for the study and conceptualization of species. (shrink)
Philosophical exploration of individualism and externalism in the cognitive sciences most recently has been focused on general evaluations of these two views (Adams & Aizawa 2008, Rupert 2008, Wilson 2004, Clark 2008). Here we return to broaden an earlier phase of the debate between individualists and externalists about cognition, one that considered in detail particular theories, such as those in developmental psychology (Patterson 1991) and the computational theory of vision (Burge 1986, Segal 1989). Music cognition is an area in the (...) cognitive sciences that has received little attention from philosophers, though it has relatively recently been thrown into the externalist spotlight (Cochrane 2008, Kruger 2014, Kersten forthcoming). Given that individualism can be thought of as a kind of paradigm for research on cognition, we provide a brief overview of the field of music cognition and individualistic tendencies within the field (sections 2 and 3) before turning to consider externalist alternatives to individualistic paradigms (section 4-5) and then arguing for a qualified form of externalism about music cognition (section 6). (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)
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.
Eugenics is commonly thought of as having endured as science and social movement only until 1945. With the advance of both reproductive and enhancement technologies, however, concern has arisen that eugenics has resurfaced in new forms. In particular, the eugenic potential of the Human Genome Project led to talk of the rise of ‘newgenics’ and of a backdoor to eugenics. This article focuses on such concerns deriving from the practice of prenatal screening and technologies that increase our ability to generate (...) information about the kinds of children we are likely to have. Given individual preferences and social norms concerning what traits are intergenerationally desirable, how should we act and what practices and policies should we endorse or scrutinise? This article will concentrate on key components of eugenic thinking present today and emphasise continuities between the eugenic past and new- genic present in the subhumanisation of people with cognitive or intellectual disabilities. (shrink)
John Locke is known within anthropology primarily for his empiricism, his views of natural laws, and his discussion of the state of nature and the social contract. Marilyn Strathern and Marshall Sahlins, however, have offered distinctive, novel, and broad reflections on the nature of anthropological knowledge that appeal explicitly to a lesser-known aspect of Locke’s work: his metaphysical views of relations. This paper examines their distinctive conclusions – Sahlins’ about cultural relativism, Strathern’s about relatives and kinship – both of which (...) concern the objectivity of anthropological knowledge. Although Locke’s own views of relations have been neglected by historians of philosophy in the past, recent and ongoing philosophical discussions of Locke on relations create a productive trading zone between philosophy and anthropology on the objectivity of anthropological knowledge that goes beyond engagement with the particular claims made by Sahlins and Strathern. (shrink)
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)
The first half of this review article on Locke on primary and secondary qualities leads up to a fairly straightforward reading of what Locke says about the distinction in Essay II.viii, one that, in its general outlines, represents a sympathetic understanding of Locke’s discussion. The second half of the paper turns to consider a few of the ways in which interpreting Locke on primary and secondary qualities has proven more complicated. Here we take up what is sometimes called the Berkeleyan (...) interpretation of Locke, the understanding of Locke’s resemblance thesis, and Locke’s views of qualities and their relationship to powers. (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)
For the greater part of the last 50 years, it has been common for philosophers of mind and cognitive scientists to invoke the notion of realization in discussing the relationship between the mind and the brain. In traditional philosophy of mind, mental states are said to be realized, instantiated, or implemented in brain states. Artificial intelligence is sometimes described as the attempt either to model or to actually construct systems that realize some of the same psychological abilities that we and (...) other living creatures possess. The claim that specific psychological. (shrink)
This book offers a sustained critique of individualism in psychology, a view that has been the subject of debate between philosophers such as Jerry Fodor and Tyler Burge for many years. The author approaches individualism as an issue in the philosophy of science and by discussing issues such as computationalism and the mind's modularity he opens the subject up for non-philosophers in psychology and computer science. Professor Wilson carefully examines the most influential arguments for individualism and identifies the main metaphysical (...) assumptions underlying them. Since the topic is so central to the philosophy of mind, a discipline generating enormous research and debate, the book has implications for a very broad range of philosophical issues including the naturalisation of intentionality, psychophysical supervenience, the nature of mental causation, and the viability of folk psychology. (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)
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)
Fodor's thinking on modularity has been influential throughout a range of the areas studying cognition, chiefly as a prod for positive work on modularity and domain-specificity. In The Mind Doesn't Work That Way, Fodor has developed the dark message of The Modularity of Mind regarding the limits to modularity and computational analyses. This paper offers a critical assessment of Fodor's scepticism with an eye to highlighting some broader issues in play, including the nature of computation and the role of recent (...) empirical developments in the cognitive sciences in assessing Fodor's position. (shrink)
David Sloan Wilson has recently revived the idea of a group mind as an application of group selectionist thinking to cognition. Central to my discussion of this idea is the distinction between the claim that groups have a psychology and what I call the social manifestation thesis-a thesis about the psychology of individuals. Contemporary work on this topic has confused these two theses. My discussion also points to research questions and issues that Wilson's work raises, as well as their connection (...) to externalist conceptions of the mind familiar since the work of Putnam and Burge. (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.