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  1. The Cultural Evolution of Cultural Evolution.Jonathan Birch & Cecilia Heyes - forthcoming - Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.
    What makes fast, cumulative cultural evolution work? Where did it come from? Why is it the sole preserve of humans? We set out a self-assembly hypothesis: cultural evolution evolved culturally. We present an evolutionary account that shows this hypothesis to be coherent, plausible, and worthy of further investigation. It has the following steps: (0) in common with other animals, early hominins had significant capacity for social learning; (1) knowledge and skills learned by offspring from their parents began to spread because (...)
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  2. The Cultural Evolution of Mind-Modelling.Richard Moore - forthcoming - Synthese 1.
    I argue that uniquely human forms of ‘Theory of Mind’ (or ‘ToM’) are a product of cultural evolution. Specifically, propositional attitude psychology is a linguistically constructed folk model of the human mind, invented by our ancestors for a range of tasks and refined over successive generations of users. The construction of these folk models gave humans new tools for thinking and reasoning about mental states—and so imbued us with abilities not shared by non-linguistic species. I also argue that uniquely human (...)
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  3. The Cultural Evolution of Institutional Religions.Michael Vlerick - forthcoming - Religion, Brain and Behavior.
    In recent work, Atran, Henrich, Norenzayan and colleagues developed an account of religion that reconciles insights from the ‘by-product’ accounts and the adaptive accounts. According to their synthesis, the process of cultural group selection driven by group competition has recruited our proclivity to adopt and spread religious beliefs and engage in religious practices to increase within group solidarity, harmony and cooperation. While their account has much merit, I believe it only tells us half the story of how institutional religions have (...)
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  4. Cecilia Heyes, Cognitive Gadgets: The Cultural Evolution of Thinking, Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2018, Ix + 292 Pp., $31.50/£25.95/€28.50. [REVIEW]Ivan Gonzalez-Cabrera - 2020 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 42 (2):1-5.
    Heyes’ book is an essential addition to the literature on human uniqueness. Her main claim is that the key human cognitive capacities are products of cultural rather than genetic evolution. Among these distinctively human capacities are causal understanding, episodic memory, imitation, mindreading, and normative thinking. According to Heyes, they emerged not by genetic mutation but by innovations in cognitive development. She calls these mechanisms ‘cognitive gadgets.’ This is perhaps one of the best and most comprehensive views of human cognitive evolution (...)
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  5. The Ape That Understood the Universe: How the Mind and Culture Evolve by Steve Stewart-Williams. [REVIEW]Ivan Gonzalez-Cabrera - 2020 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 95:150.
    What explains the distinctive features of human behavior? In this book, Stewart-Williams aims to answer this ambitious question. This book is an engaging addition to the already long list of recent attempts to provide an evolutionary explanation of human uniqueness. It is organized into six chapters, plus two appendices. These chapters address several key topics in evolutionary theory, sex differences and sexual behavior, altruism, and cultural evolution, albeit with varying degrees of detail and depth. These topics include sexual selection, kin (...)
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  6. Art Forms Emerging: An Approach to Evaluative Diversity in Art.Mohan Matthen - 2020 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 78 (3):303-318.
    An artwork in one culture and form, say European classical music, cannot be evaluated in the context of another, say Hindustani music. While a person educated in the traditions of European music can rationally evaluate and discuss her response to a string quartet by Beethoven, her response to music in a foreign culture is merely subjective. She might "like" the latter, but her response is merely subjective. In this paper, I discuss the role of artforms: why response can be "objectively" (...)
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  7. Looking for Middle Ground in Cultural Attraction Theory.Andrew Buskell - 2019 - Evolutionary Anthropology 28 (1):14-17.
    In their article, Thom Scott‐Phillips, Stefaan Blancke, and Christophe Heintz do a commendable job summarizing the position and misunderstandings of “cultural attraction theory” (CAT). However, they do not address a longstanding problem for the CAT framework; that while it has an encompassing theory and some well‐worked out case studies, it lacks tools for generating models or empirical hypotheses of intermediate generality. I suggest that what the authors diagnose as misunderstandings are instead superficial interpretive errors, resulting from researchers who have attempted (...)
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  8. Power in Cultural Evolution and the Spread of Prosocial Norms.Nathan Cofnas - 2018 - Quarterly Review of Biology 93 (4):297–318.
    According to cultural evolutionary theory in the tradition of Boyd and Richerson, cultural evolution is driven by individuals' learning biases, natural selection, and random forces. Learning biases lead people to preferentially acquire cultural variants with certain contents or in certain contexts. Natural selection favors individuals or groups with fitness-promoting variants. Durham (1991) argued that Boyd and Richerson's approach is based on a "radical individualism" that fails to recognize that cultural variants are often "imposed" on people regardless of their individual decisions. (...)
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  9. The Double Movement in Polanyi and Hayek: Towards the Continuation of Life.Filipe Nobre Faria - 2018 - Ethics, Politics and Society 1:329-350.
    Karl Polanyi's double movement is a dialectical process characterized by a continuous tension between a movement towards social marketization and a movement towards social protectionism. Notably, Polanyi condemns the former movement while defending the latter. Without using the term " double movement " , F.A Hayek's theory of social evolution acknowledges the same phenomenon but reaches different normative conclusions. While for Polanyi the marketization of society is a utopia with dystopian consequences, Hayek's evolutionary explanation of this dialectical process asserts that (...)
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  10. The Theoretical Difficulties of Memetics.Kinga Kowalczyk-Purol - 2018 - Diametros (58):65-86.
    Memetics is a research approach which applies evolutionary ideas and terminology to cultural phenomena. The core idea of memetics is the existence of the units of cultural evolution which are attributed autonomous replicating goals. Of course, such a controversial concept has gained many devoted adherents as well as its determined opponents. The paper discusses the theoretical difficulties of memetics. The first part discusses the analogy of genes and memes. The theme of the second part is the ontology of a cultural (...)
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  11. Kamikazes and Cultural Evolution.Sean Allen-Hermanson - 2017 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Biological and Biomedical Sciences 61:11-19.
    Is cultural evolution needed to explain altruistic selfsacrifice? Some contend that cultural traits (e.g. beliefs, behaviors, and for some “memes”) replicate according to selection processes that have “floated free” from biology. One test case is the example of suicide kamikaze attacks in wartime Japan. Standard biological mechanisms—such as reciprocal altruism and kin selection—might not seem to apply here: The suicide pilots did not act on the expectation that others would reciprocate, and they were supposedly sacrificing themselves for country and emperor, (...)
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  12. Cultural Attractor Theory and Explanation.Andrew Buskell - 2017 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 9 (13).
    Cultural attractor theory (CAT) is a highly visible and audacious approach to studying human cultural evolution. However, the explanatory aims and some central explanatory concepts of CAT remain unclear. Here I remedy these problems. I provide a reconstruction of CAT that recasts it as a theory of forces. I then demonstrate how this reinterpretation of CAT has the resources to generate both cultural distribution and evolvability explanations. I conclude by examining the potential benefits and drawbacks of this reconstruction.
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  13. Mental Evolution: A Review of Daniel Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back. [REVIEW]Charles Rathkopf - 2017 - Biology and Philosophy 32 (6):1355-1368.
    From Bacteria To Bach and Back is an ambitious book that attempts to integrate a theory about the evolution of the human mind with another theory about the evolution of human culture. It is advertised as a defense of memes, but conceptualizes memes more liberally than has been done before. It is also advertised as a defense of the proposal that natural selection operates on culture, but conceptualizes natural selection as a process in which nearly all interesting parameters are free (...)
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  14. Cultural Evolution and Prosociality: Widening the Hypothesis Space.Bryce Huebner & Hagop Sarkissian - 2016 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 1 (39):e15.
    Norenzayan and colleagues suggest that Big Gods can be replaced by Big Governments. We examine forms of social and self-monitoring and ritual practice that emerged in Classical China, heterarchical societies like those that emerged in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, and the contemporary Zapatista movement of Chiapas, and we recommend widening the hypothesis space to include these alternative forms of social organization.
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  15. Modelling the Truth of Scientific Beliefs with Cultural Evolutionary Theory.Krist Vaesen & Wybo Houkes - 2014 - Synthese 191 (1).
    Evolutionary anthropologists and archaeologists have been considerably successful in modelling the cumulative evolution of culture, of technological skills and knowledge in particular. Recently, one of these models has been introduced in the philosophy of science by De Cruz and De Smedt (Philos Stud 157:411–429, 2012), in an attempt to demonstrate that scientists may collectively come to hold more truth-approximating beliefs, despite the cognitive biases which they individually are known to be subject to. Here we identify a major shortcoming in that (...)
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  16. Learning, Evolvability and Exploratory Behaviour: Extending the Evolutionary Reach of Learning.Rachael L. Brown - 2013 - Biology and Philosophy 28 (6):933-955.
    Traditional accounts of the role of learning in evolution have concentrated upon its capacity as a source of fitness to individuals. In this paper I use a case study from invasive species biology—the role of conditioned taste aversion in mitigating the impact of cane toads on the native species of Northern Australia—to highlight a role for learning beyond this—as a source of evolvability to populations. This has two benefits. First, it highlights an otherwise under-appreciated role for learning in evolution that (...)
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  17. Culture and Transitions in Individuality.Paulo Abrantes - 2011 - In Luiz Dutra & Alexandre Meyer Luz (eds.), Rumos da Epistemologia v. 11. Santa Catarina, Brazil: Núcleo de Epistemologia e Lógica. pp. 395-408.
    Some "major" evolutionary transitions have been described as transitions in individuality. In this depiction, natural selection might bring about new kinds of individuals, whose evolutionary dynamics takes place in a novel way. Using a categorization proposed by Godfrey-Smith, this transition is fully accomplished when a new "paradigmatic" Darwinian population emerges. In this paper I investigate whether at some point in the evolution in the hominin lineage a transition of this kind might have happened, by assuming some of the theses of (...)
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  18. Exploring Mouse Trap History.Joachim L. Dagg - 2011 - Evolution Education and Outreach 4 (3):397-414.
    Since intelligent design (ID) advocates claimed the ubiquitous mouse trap as an example of systems that cannot have evolved, mouse trap history is doubly relevant to studying material culture. On the one hand, debunking ID claims about mouse traps and, by implication, also about other irreducibly complex systems has a high educational value. On the other hand, a case study of mouse trap history may contribute insights to the academic discussion about material culture evolution. Michael Behe argued that mouse traps (...)
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  19. Won't You Please Unite? Darwinism, Cultural Evolution and Kinds of Synthesis.Maria Kronfeldner - 2010 - In A. Barahona, H.-J. Rheinberger & E. Suarez-Diaz (eds.), The Hereditary Hourglass: Genetics and Epigenetics, 1868-2000. Max Planck Insititute for the History of Science. pp. 111-125.
    The synthetic theory of evolution has gone stale and an expanding or (re-)widening of it towards a new synthesis has been announced. This time, development and culture are supposed to join the synthesis bandwagon. In this article, I distinguish between four kinds of synthesis that are involved when we extend the evolutionary synthesis towards culture: the integration of fields, the heuristic generation of interfields, the expansion of validity, and the creation of a common frame of discourse or ‘big-picture’. These kinds (...)
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  20. Cultural Evolution: A General Appraisal.Jean Gayon - 2005 - Ludus Vitalis 13 (23):139-150.
    The first objective of the paper is to propose a classification and characterize the major approaches to the modes of cultural evolution: (1) Research programs on the origins of the cultural capacity of the human species. (2) Description and explanation of cultural change with the help of concepts or models inspired by the schemes of population genetics. (3) Research on parallel evolution of genes and culture. (4) Narrow coupling between biological evolution and cultural evolution, or the “gene-culture coevolution paradigm.” These (...)
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  21. Why Some Apes Became Humans, Competition, Consciousness, and Culture.Pouwel Slurink - 2002 - Dissertation, Radboud University
    Chapter 1 (To know in order to survive) & Chapter 2 (A critique of evolved reason) explain human knowledge and its limits from an evolutionary point of view. Chapter 3 (Captured in our Cockpits) explains the evolution of consciousness, using value driven decision theory. Chapter 4-6 (Chapter 4 Sociobiology, Chapter 5 Culture: the Human Arena), Chapter 6, Genes, Memes, and the Environment) show that to understand culture you have at least to deal with 4 levels: genes, brains, the environment, culture. (...)
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  22. Dan Sperber: 'Explaining Culture'. [REVIEW]Mahesh Ananth - 2001 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 31 (4):563-571.
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  23. Review of Terrence W. Deacon, The Symbolic Species. [REVIEW]Greg Nixon - 1998 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 5 (5-6):746-748.
    Terrence Deacon has constructed a tome in which he unleashes his considerable learning in quest of several answers to the question, ‘What are we?’ He is uniquely qualified to take an approach which details the origin and development of, first, language, then the brain, and, lastly, their ‘co-evolution.’ Described on the jacket as ‘a world-renowned researcher in neuroscience and evolutionary anthropology,’ all of his background is called upon at various times to pull together the mass of data and supposition that (...)
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  24. Humans and Persons.Mostyn W. Jones - manuscript
    Traditional ways of characterizing humans and persons are vague and simplistic. For example, persons are often defined as having free will and responsibility – but what actual powers underlie these vague metaphysical abstractions? Traditional answers like "rationality" and "creativity" are still vague, and also simplistic. Similar traits appear as defining traits of humans, yet we’re far too complex to be distinguished from other species in such simple and tight ways. But there may be a looser hallmark of humans that just (...)
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