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Michael Vlerick
Tilburg University
  1. 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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  2.  77
    A Cognitive Perspective on Scientific Realism.Michael Vlerick - 2019 - Philosophical Psychology 32 (8):1157-1178.
    The debate about scientific realism is concerned with the relation between our scientific theories and the world. Scientific realists argue that our best theories or components of those theories correspond to the world. Anti-realists deny such a correspondence. Traditionally, this central issue in the philosophy of science has been approached by focusing on the theories themselves (e.g., by looking at theory change or the underlying experimental context). I propose a relatively unexplored way to approach this old debate. In addition to (...)
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  3. Natural Selection Does Care About Truth.Maarten Boudry & Michael Vlerick - 2014 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 28 (1):65-77.
    True beliefs are better guides to the world than false ones. This is the common-sense assumption that undergirds theorizing in evolutionary epistemology. According to Alvin Plantinga, however, evolution by natural selection does not care about truth: it cares only about fitness. If our cognitive faculties are the products of blind evolution, we have no reason to trust them, anytime or anywhere. Evolutionary naturalism, consequently, is a self-defeating position. Following up on earlier objections, we uncover three additional flaws in Plantinga's latest (...)
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  4.  35
    Towards Global Cooperation: The Case for a Deliberative Global Citizens' Assembly.Michael Vlerick - forthcoming - Global Policy.
    In an important article published in this journal, Dryzek, Bächtiger and Milewicz (2011) champion the convocation of a Deliberative Global Citizens’ Assembly (DGCA). In this article, I aim to further strengthen the case for a DGCA by addressing: (i) why a DGCA is likely to take a long-term perspective in the global interest and (ii) why it is so vital that a global institution should do so. I start by analyzing the nature of the issues requiring global policy. These issues, (...)
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  5.  31
    The Evolution of Social Contracts.Michael Vlerick - 2019 - Journal of Social Ontology 5 (2):181-203.
    Influential thinkers such as Young, Sugden, Binmore, and Skyrms have developed game-theoretic accounts of the emergence, persistence and evolution of social contracts. Social contracts are sets of commonly understood rules that govern cooperative social interaction within societies. These naturalistic accounts provide us with valuable and important insights into the foundations of human societies. However, current naturalistic theories focus mainly on how social contracts solve coordination problems in which the interests of the individual participants are aligned, not competition problems in which (...)
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  6. Evolution and Epistemic Justification.Michael Vlerick & Alex Broadbent - 2015 - Dialectica 69 (2):185-203.
    According to the evolutionary sceptic, the fact that our cognitive faculties evolved radically undermines their reliability. A number of evolutionary epistemologists have sought to refute this kind of scepticism. This paper accepts the success of these attempts, yet argues that refuting the evolutionary sceptic is not enough to put any particular domain of beliefs – notably scientific beliefs, which include belief in Darwinian evolution – on a firm footing. The paper thus sets out to contribute to this positive justificatory project, (...)
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  7.  91
    Can Evolution Get Us Off the Hook? Evaluating the Ecological Defence of Human Rationality.Maarten Boudry, Michael Vlerick & Ryan McKay - 2015 - Consciousness and Cognition 33:524-535.
    This paper discusses the ecological case for epistemic innocence: does biased cognition have evolutionary benefits, and if so, does that exculpate human reasoners from irrationality? Proponents of ‘ecological rationality’ have challenged the bleak view of human reasoning emerging from research on biases and fallacies. If we approach the human mind as an adaptive toolbox, tailored to the structure of the environment, many alleged biases and fallacies turn out to be artefacts of narrow norms and artificial set-ups. However, we argue that (...)
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  8.  32
    How Can Human Beings Transgress Their Biologically Based Views?Michael Vlerick - 2012 - South African Journal of Philosophy 31 (4):707-735.
    Empirical evidence from developmental psychology and anthropology points out that the human mind is predisposed to conceptualize the world in particular, species-specific ways. These cognitive predispositions lead to universal human commonsense views, often referred to as folk theories. Nevertheless, humans can transgress these views – i.e. they can contradict them with alternative descriptions, they perceive as more accurate – as exemplified in modern sciences. In this paper, I enquire about the cognitive faculties underlying such transgressions. I claim that there are (...)
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  9.  13
    Review of Stanovich, K., West, R. And Toplak, M. ‘The Rationality Quotient: Toward a Test of Rational Thinking’, Cambridge (MA), The MIT Press. [REVIEW]Michael Vlerick - 2018 - Quarterly Review of Biology 93:43-44.
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  10.  79
    Explaining Universal Social Institutions: A Game-Theoretic Approach.Michael Vlerick - 2016 - Topoi 35 (1):291-300.
    Universal social institutions, such as marriage, commons management and property, have emerged independently in radically different cultures. This requires explanation. As Boyer and Petersen point out ‘in a purely localist framework would have to constitute massively improbable coincidences’ . According to Boyer and Petersen, those institutions emerged naturally out of genetically wired behavioural dispositions, such as marriage out of mating strategies and borders out of territorial behaviour. While I agree with Boyer and Petersen that ‘unnatural’ institutions cannot thrive, this one-sided (...)
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  11.  25
    Better Than Our Nature.Michael Vlerick - 2017 - Cambridge University Press.
    The fact of evolution raises important questions for the position of moral realism, because the origin of our moral dispositions in a contingent evolutionary process is on the face of it incompatible with the view that our moral beliefs track independent moral truths. Moreover, this meta-ethical worry seems to undermine the normative justification of our moral norms and beliefs. If we don’t have any grounds to believe that the source of our moral beliefs has any ontological authority, how can our (...)
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  12.  56
    Psychological Closure Does Not Entail Cognitive Closure.Michael Vlerick & Maarten Boudry - 2017 - Dialectica 71 (1):101-115.
    According to some philosophers, we are “cognitively closed” to the answers to certain problems. McGinn has taken the next step and offered a list of examples: the mind/body problem, the problem of the self and the problem of free will. There are naturalistic, scientific answers to these problems, he argues, but we cannot reach them because of our cognitive limitations. In this paper, we take issue with McGinn's thesis as the most well-developed and systematic one among the so-called “new mysterians”. (...)
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  13.  61
    Biological Constraints Do Not Entail Cognitive Closure.Michael Vlerick - 2014 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 48:21-27.
    From the premise that our biology imposes cognitive constraints on our epistemic activities, a series of prominent authors – most notably Fodor, Chomsky and McGinn – have argued that we are cognitively closed to certain aspects and properties of the world. Cognitive constraints, they argue, entail cognitive closure. I argue that this is not the case. More precisely, I detect two unwarranted conflations at the core of arguments deriving closure from constraints. The first is a conflation of what I will (...)
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  14.  38
    ‘Biologising’ Putnam: Saving the Realism in Internal Realism.Michael Vlerick - 2014 - South African Journal of Philosophy 33 (3):271-283.
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