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  1. From Code to Speaker Meaning.Kim Sterelny - 2017 - Biology and Philosophy 32 (6):819-838.
    This paper has two aims. One is to defend an incrementalist view of the evolution of language, not from those who think that syntax could not evolve incrementally, but from those who defend a fundamental distinction between Gricean communication or ostensive inferential communication and code-based communication. The paper argues against this dichotomy, and sketches ways in which a code-based system could evolve into Gricean communication. The second is to assess the merits of the Sender–Receiver Framework, originally formulated by David Lewis, (...)
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  • Symbols, Signals, and the Archaeological Record.Kim Sterelny & Peter Hiscock - 2014 - Biological Theory 9 (1):1-3.
    The articles in this issue represent the pursuit of a new understanding of the human past, one that can replace the neo-saltationist view of a human revolution with models that can account for the complexities of the archaeological record and of human social lives. The articulation of archaeological, philosophical, and biological perspectives seems to offer a strong foundation for exploring available evidence, and this was the rationale for collecting these particular articles. Even at this preliminary stage there is a coherence (...)
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  • The Social Trackways Theory of the Evolution of Language.Kim Shaw-Williams - 2017 - Biological Theory 12 (4):195-210.
    The social trackways theory is centered on the remarkable 3.66 mya Laetoli Fossilized Trackways, for they incontrovertibly reveal our ancestors were already obligate bipeds with very human-like feet, and were intentionally stepping in other band members’ footprints to maintain safe footing. Trackways are unique among natural sign systems in possessing a depictive narratively generative structure, somewhat like the symbolic sign systems of gestural languages. Therefore, due to daily embodied reiteration of their own and other band member’s old footprints, both for (...)
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  • Learning in Lithic Landscapes: A Reconsideration of the Hominid “Toolmaking” Niche.Peter Hiscock - 2014 - Biological Theory 9 (1):27-41.
    This article reconsiders the early hominid ‘‘lithic niche’’ by examining the social implications of stone artifact making. I reject the idea that making tools for use is an adequate explanation of the elaborate artifact forms of the Lower Palaeolithic, or a sufficient cause for long-term trends in hominid technology. I then advance an alternative mechanism founded on the claim that competency in making stone artifacts requires extended learning, and that excellence in artifact making is attained only by highly skilled individuals (...)
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  • The Origins of Causal Cognition in Early Hominins.Martin Stuart-Fox - 2015 - Biology and Philosophy 30 (2):247-266.
    Studies of primate cognition have conclusively shown that humans and apes share a range of basic cognitive abilities. As a corollary, these same studies have also focussed attention on what makes humans unique, and on when and how specifically human cognitive skills evolved. There is widespread agreement that a major distinguishing feature of the human mind is its capacity for causal reasoning. This paper argues that causal cognition originated with the use made of indirect natural signs by early hominins forced (...)
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  • Musicality and the Evolution of Mind, Mimesis, and Entrainment: Gary Tomlinson: A Million Years of Music: The Emergence of Human Modernity. Zone, New York, 2015.Anton Killin - 2016 - Biology and Philosophy 31 (3):421-434.
    In A Million Years of Music, Gary Tomlinson develops an extensive evolutionary narrative that emphasises several important components of human musicality and proposes a theory of the coalescence of these components. In this essay I tie some of Tomlinson’s ideas to five constraints on theories of music’s evolution. This provides the framework for organising my reconstruction of his model. Thereafter I focus on Tomlinson’s description of ‘entraining’ Acheulean toolmakers and offer several criticisms. I close with some tentative proposals for further (...)
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  • Plio-Pleistocene Foundations of Hominin Musicality: Coevolution of Cognition, Sociality, and Music.Anton Killin - 2017 - Biological Theory 12 (4):222-235.
    Today, music is ubiquitous, highly valued in all known cultures, playing many roles in human daily life. The ethnographic study of the music of extant human foragers makes this quite apparent. Moreover, music is ancient. Sophisticated bird-bone and ivory flutes dated from 40 kya reveal an even earlier musical-technological tradition. So is music likely to be an entrenched feature of human social life during the long passage to behavioral modernity—say, by 150 kya—or earlier? In this article I sketch an evolutionary (...)
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  • Where Did Language Come From? Connecting Sign, Song, and Speech in Hominin Evolution.Anton Killin - 2017 - Biology and Philosophy 32 (6):759-778.
    Recently theorists have developed competing accounts of the origins and nature of protolanguage and the subsequent evolution of language. Debate over these accounts is lively. Participants ask: Is music a direct precursor of language? Were the first languages gestural? Or is language continuous with primate vocalizations, such as the alarm calls of vervets? In this article I survey the leading hypotheses and lines of evidence, favouring a largely gestural conception of protolanguage. However, the “sticking point” of gestural accounts, to use (...)
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  • Artifacts, Symbols, Thoughts.Kim Sterelny - 2017 - Biological Theory 12 (4):236-247.
    Until relatively recently, it was often supposed that changes in the material record of hominin life indexed advances in hominin cognitive sophistication in a relatively direct way. In particular, the “Upper Paleolithic Transition”—an apparently abrupt increase in the complexity and disparity of our material culture—was thought to signal the arrival of the fully human mind. While the idea of a direct relationship between material complexity and cognitive sophistication still has some defenders, this view has largely been abandoned. It is now (...)
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