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David Spurrett
University of KwaZulu-Natal
  1.  85
    The Descent of Preferences.David Spurrett - manuscript
    [A slightly revised version of this paper has been accepted by the BJPS] More attention has been devoted to providing evolutionary scenarios accounting for the development of beliefs, or belief-like states, than for desires or preferences. Here I articulate and defend an evolutionary rationale for the development of psychologically real preference states. Preferences token or represent the expected values of discriminated states, available actions, or action-state pairings. The argument is an application the ‘environmental complexity thesis’ found in Godfrey-Smith and Sterelny, (...)
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  2. Philosophers Should Be Interested in ‘Common Currency’ Claims in the Cognitive and Behavioural Sciences.David Spurrett - 2014 - South African Journal of Philosophy 33 (2):211-221.
    A recurring claim in a number of behavioural, cognitive and neuro-scientific literatures is that there is, or must be, a unidimensional ‘common currency’ in which the values of different available options are represented. There is striking variety in the quantities or properties that have been proposed as determinants of the ordering in motivational strength. Among those seriously suggested are pain and pleasure, biological fitness, reward and reinforcement, and utility among economists, who have regimented the notion of utility in a variety (...)
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  3. Notions of Cause: Russell's Thesis Revisited.Don Ross & David Spurrett - 2007 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 58 (1):45-76.
    We discuss Russell's 1913 essay arguing for the irrelevance of the idea of causation to science and its elimination from metaphysics as a precursor to contemporary philosophical naturalism. We show how Russell's application raises issues now receiving much attention in debates about the adequacy of such naturalism, in particular, problems related to the relationship between folk and scientific conceptual influences on metaphysics, and to the unification of a scientifically inspired worldview. In showing how to recover an approximation to Russell's conclusion (...)
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  4.  32
    Does Intragenomic Conflict Predict Intrapersonal Conflict?David Spurrett - 2016 - Biology and Philosophy 31 (3):313-333.
    Parts of the genome of a single individual can have conflicting interests, depending on which parent they were inherited from. One mechanism by which these conflicts are expressed in some taxa, including mammals, is genomic imprinting, which modulates the level of expression of some genes depending on their parent of origin. Imprinted gene expression is known to affect body size, brain size, and the relative development of various tissues in mammals. A high fraction of imprinted gene expression occurs in the (...)
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  5.  50
    Affording Affordances.David Spurrett - forthcoming - Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy.
    A striking feature of the latest version of Dennett’s ‘big picture’ of the evolution of life and mind is frequent reference to ‘affordances’. An affordance is, roughly, a possibility for action for a creature in an environment. Given more than one possibility for action, a good question is: what will the creature actually do? I argue that affordances pose a problem of selection, and that a good general solution to this problem of mind-design is to implement a system of preferences.
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  6.  15
    The Natural History of Desire.David Spurrett - 2015 - South African Journal of Philosophy 34 (3):304-313.
    Sterelny (2003) develops an idealised natural history of folk-psychological kinds. He argues that belief-like states are natural elaborations of simpler control systems, called detection systems, which map directly from environmental cue to response. Belief-like states exhibit robust tracking (sensitivity to multiple environmental states), and response breadth (occasioning a wider range of behaviours). The development of robust tracking and response-breadth depend partly on properties of the informational environment. In a transparent environment the functional relevance of states of the world is directly (...)
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  7. Cartwright on Laws and Composition.David Spurrett - 2000 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 15 (3):253 – 268.
    Cartwright attempts to argue from an analysis of the composition of forces, and more generally the composition of laws, to the conclusion that laws must be regarded as false. A response to Cartwright is developed which contends that properly understood composition poses no threat to the truth of laws, even though agreeing with Cartwright that laws do not satisfy the "facticity" requirement. My analysis draws especially on the work of Creary, Bhaskar, Mill, and points towards a general rejection of Cartwright's (...)
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  8.  42
    What Physical Properties Are.David Spurrett - 2001 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 82 (2):201-225.
    This paper concerns the question of how to specify what is to count as physical for the purposes of debates concerning either physicalism or the completeness of physics. I argue that what is needed from an account of the physical depends primarily on the particular issue at stake, and that the demand for a general a priori specification of the physical is misplaced. A number of attempts to say what should be counted as physical are defended from recent attacks by (...)
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  9.  72
    What Physical Properties Are.David Spurrett - 2001 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 82 (2):201-225.
    This paper concerns the question of how to specify what is to count as physical for the purposes of debates concerning either physicalism or the completeness of physics. I argue that what is needed from an account of the physical depends primarily on the particular issue at stake, and that the demand for a general a priori specification of the physical is misplaced. A number of attempts to say what should be counted as physical are defended from recent attacks by (...)
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  10. The Completeness of Physics.David Spurrett - 1999 - Dissertation, University of Natal, Durban
    The present work is focussed on the completeness of physics, or what is here called the Completeness Thesis: the claim that the domain of the physical is causally closed. Two major questions are tackled: How best is the Completeness Thesis to be formulated? What can be said in defence of the Completeness Thesis? My principal conclusions are that the Completeness Thesis can be coherently formulated, and that the evidence in favour if it significantly outweighs that against it. In opposition to (...)
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