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Robert A. Wilson
University of Western Australia
R. A. E. Wilson
University of Kent at Canterbury
  1.  45
    Sociobiology.Robert A. Wilson - 2014 - Eugenics Archives.
    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 (...)
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  2. Boundaries of the Mind: The Individual in the Fragile Sciences - Cognition.Robert A. Wilson - 2004 - Cambridge University Press.
    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 (...)
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  3. How to Situate Cognition: Letting Nature Take its Course.Robert A. Wilson & Andy Clark - 2009 - In Murat Aydede & P. Robbins (eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Situated Cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 55--77.
    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.
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  4.  65
    Dehumanization, Disability, and Eugenics.Robert A. Wilson - forthcoming - In Maria E. Kronfeldner (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Dehumanization. New York, NY, USA:
    This paper explores the relationship between eugenics, disability, and dehumanization, with a focus on forms of eugenics beyond Nazi eugenics.
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  5. When Traditional Essentialism Fails.Robert A. Wilson, Matthew J. Barker & Ingo Brigandt - 2007 - Philosophical Topics 35 (1-2):189-215.
    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 (...)
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  6. Eugenics Never Went Away.Robert A. Wilson - 2018 - Aeon 2018.
    Eugenics does not feel so distant from where I stand. This essay explains why.
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  7. A Conceptual and Empirical Framework for the Social Distribution of Cognition: The Case of Memory.Amanda Barnier, John Sutton, Celia Harris & Robert A. Wilson - 2008 - Cognitive Systems Research 9 (1):33-51.
    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 (...)
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  8.  64
    Philosophy.Robert A. Wilson - 1999 - In Robert A. Wilson & Frank C. Keil (eds.), MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences. Cambridge, MA, USA:
    This is an introduction to the 80 articles on philosophy in MITECS.
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  9. Extended Mind and Identity.Robert A. Wilson & Bartlomiej Lenart - 2014 - In Jens Clausen & Neil Levy (eds.), Handbook of Neuroethics. Springer. pp. 423-439.
    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 (...)
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  10.  20
    Biological Individuals.Robert A. Wilson & Matthew J. Barker - 2019 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 1 (1).
    The impressive variation amongst biological individuals generates many complexities in addressing the simple-sounding question what is a biological individual? A distinction between evolutionary and physiological individuals is useful in thinking about biological individuals, as is attention to the kinds of groups, such as superorganisms and species, that have sometimes been thought of as biological individuals. More fully understanding the conceptual space that biological individuals occupy also involves considering a range of other concepts, such as life, reproduction, and agency. There has (...)
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  11.  59
    Sociobiology.Robert A. Wilson - 2014 - Eugenics Archive.
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  12.  30
    Rethinking Incest Avoidance: Beyond the Disciplinary Groove of Culture-First Views.Robert A. Wilson - forthcoming - Biological Theory:1-14.
    In Wilson (2019), I articulated and defended a version of the Westermarck Effect by developing a phylogenetic argument that has purchase within primatology but that has had more limited appeal for cultural anthropologists due to their commitment to conventionalist or culture-first accounts of incest avoidance. Here I look to advance the discussion of incest and incest avoidance beyond culture-first accounts in two ways. First, I shall dig deeper into the disciplinary grooves within cultural anthropology that make attractive the view that (...)
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  13. Wide Computationalism.Robert A. Wilson - 1994 - Mind 103 (411):351-72.
    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.
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  14. Collective Memory, Group Minds, and the Extended Mind Thesis.Robert A. Wilson - 2005 - Cognitive Processing 6 (4).
    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. (...)
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  15.  22
    Eugenics Undefended.Robert A. Wilson - 2019 - Monash Bioethics Review 37 (1-2):68-75.
    This is a critical response to "Defending Eugenics", published in MBR in 2018.
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  16. Kinship Past, Kinship Present: Bio-Essentialism in the Study of Kinship.Robert A. Wilson - 2016 - American Anthropologist 118 (3).
    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 (...)
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  17. Two Views of Realization.Robert A. Wilson - 2001 - Philosophical Studies 104 (1):1-31.
    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 (...)
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  18. Meaning Making and the Mind of the Externalist.Robert A. Wilson - 2010 - In Richard Menary (ed.), The Extended Mind. MIT Press. pp. 167--188.
    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 (...)
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  19. Well-Being, Disability, and Choosing Children.Matthew J. Barker & Robert A. Wilson - 2019 - Mind 128 (510):305-328.
    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 (...)
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  20. What Computations (Still, Still) Can't Do: Jerry Fodor on Computation and Modularity.Robert A. Wilson - 2004 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 34 (sup1):407-425.
    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 (...)
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  21. Ten Questions Concerning Extended Cognition.Robert A. Wilson - 2014 - Philosophical Psychology 27 (1):19-33.
    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. (...)
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  22. Species: New Interdisciplinary Essays.Robert A. Wilson - 1999 - MIT Press.
    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.
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  23.  16
    Preface: Eugenics and its Study.Robert A. Wilson - forthcoming - In Frank Stahnisch & Erna Kurbegovic (eds.), Exploring the Relationship of Eugenics and Psychiatry: Canadian and Trans-Atlantic Perspectives 1905 – 1972. Athabasca University Press.
    This is the preface to a collection of essays on eugenics and psychiatry.
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  24. The Sound of Music: Externalist Style.Luke Kersten & Robert A. Wilson - 2016 - American Philosophical Quarterly 53 (2):139-154.
    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 (...)
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  25. Incest, Incest Avoidance, and Attachment: Revisiting the Westermarck Effect.Robert A. Wilson - 2019 - Philosophy of Science 86 (3):391-411.
    This article defends a version of the Westermarck Effect, integrating existing clinical, biological, and philosophical dimensions to incest avoidance. By focusing on care-based attachment in primates, my formulation of the effect suggests the power of a phylogenetic argument widely accepted by primatologists but not by cultural anthropologists. Identifying postadoption incest as a phenomenon with underexplored evidential value, the article sketches an explanatory strategy for reconciling the effect with the clinical reality of incest, concluding with an explicit argument against culture-first or (...)
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  26. Extended Vision.Robert A. Wilson - 2010 - In Nivedita Gangopadhyay, Michael Madary & Finn Spicer (eds.), Perception, Action and Consciousness. Oxford University Press..
    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 (...)
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  27. Eugenic Thinking.Robert A. Wilson - 2018 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 10.
    Projects of human improvement take both individual and intergenerational forms. The biosciences provide many technologies, including prenatal screening and the latest gene editing techniques, such as CRISPR, that have been viewed as providing the means to human improvement across generations. But who is fit to furnish the next generation? Historically, eugenics epitomizes the science-based attempt to improve human society through distinguishing kinds of people and then implementing social policies—from immigration restriction to sexual sterilization and euthanasia—that influence and even direct what (...)
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  28. Cohesion, Gene Flow, and the Nature of Species.Matthew J. Barker & Robert A. Wilson - 2010 - Journal of Philosophy 107 (2):59-77.
    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 (...)
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  29.  17
    The Eugenic Mind Project.Robert A. Wilson - 2018 - Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
    The Eugenic Mind Project is a wide-ranging, philosophical book that explores and critiques both past and present eugenic thinking, drawing on the author’s intimate knowledge of eugenics in North America and his previous work on the cognitive, biological, and social sciences, the fragile sciences. Informed by the perspectives of Canadian eugenics survivors in the province of Alberta, The Eugenic Mind Project recounts the history of eugenics and the thinking that drove it, and critically engages contemporary manifestations of eugenic thought, newgenics. (...)
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  30.  25
    Eugenics.Robert A. Wilson - 2014 - Eugenics Archive.
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  31. Thinking About Relations: Strathern, Sahlins, and Locke on Anthropological Knowledge.Robert A. Wilson - 2016 - Anthropological Theory 4 (16):327-349.
    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 (...)
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  32. Externalism and Internalism in the Philosophy of Mind.Robert A. Wilson - 2017 - Oxford Bibliographies.
    Annotated bibliography of works on externalism and internalism in the philosophy of mind.
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  33. Collective Intentionality in Non-Human Animals.Robert A. Wilson - 2017 - In Marija Jankovic and Kirk Ludwig (ed.), Routledge Handbook on Collective Intentionality. New York, NY, USA: pp. 420-432.
    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 (...)
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  34. Group-Level Cognizing, Collaborative Remembering, and Individuals.Robert A. Wilson - 2017 - In Penny Van Bergen Michelle Meade (ed.), Collaborative Remembering: Theories, Research, and Applications. New York, NY, USA: pp. 248-260.
    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 (...)
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  35.  55
    Explanation and Cognition.Frank C. Keil & Robert A. Wilson - 2000 - MIT Press.
    These essays draw on work in the history and philosophy of science, the philosophy of mind and language, the development of concepts in children, conceptual..
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  36. Eugenics and Disability.Robert A. Wilson & Joshua St Pierre - 2016 - In Beatriz Mirandaa-Galarza Patrick Devlieger (ed.), Rethinking Disability: World Perspectives in Culture and Society. Antwerp, Belgium: pp. 93-112.
    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 (...)
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  37.  22
    Eugenic Family Studies.Robert A. Wilson - 2014 - Eugenic Archives.
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  38.  6
    The Mind Beyond Itself.Robert A. Wilson - 2000 - In Dan Sperber (ed.), Metarepresentations: A Multidisciplinary Perspective. New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press. pp. 31-52.
    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.
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  39. Seeing, Doing, and Knowing: A Philosophical Theory of Sense Perception. [REVIEW]Robert A. Wilson - 2006 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 36 (1):117-132.
    In this initially daunting but ultimately enjoyable and informative book, Mohan Matthen argues that this tradition is mistaken about both the processes of perception or sensing and the relationship between sensation, perception, and cognition. Since this tradition is sufficiently alive and well in the contemporary literature to constitute something like the received view of perception and the role of sensation in it, Matthen’s challenge and the alternative view he proposes are potentially significant. Sensory systems, Matthen thinks, are primarily devices for (...)
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  40.  18
    Sorts of People.Robert A. Wilson - 2014 - Eugenics Archive.
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  41. The Transitivity of Material Constitution.Robert A. Wilson - 2009 - Noûs 43 (2):363-377.
    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. (...)
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  42. Intentionality and Phenomenology.Robert A. Wilson - 2003 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 84 (4):413-431.
    This paper is a critique of some ideas about narrow content owing to Horgan and Tienson and Brian Loar.
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  43. Contemporary Forms of Eugenics.Robert A. Wilson - 2017 - eLS Wiley Online.
    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 (...)
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  44.  16
    The Cognitive Sciences: A Comment on 6 Reviews of the MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences.Robert A. Wilson - 2001 - Artificial Intelligence 2 (130):223-229.
    As the pluralization in the title of MITECS suggests, and as many reviewers have noted, the stance that we adopted as general editors for this project was ecumenical. We were particularly concerned to generate a volume whose range of topics and perspectives indicated that “cognitive science” was different things to different groups of researchers, and that many even fundamental questions remain open after at least four decades of various interdisciplinary ventures. Implicit in this view is a wariness of any putative (...)
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  45. Realization.Carl F. Craver & Robert A. Wilson - 2006 - In P. Thagard (ed.), Handbook of the Philosophy of Psychology and Cognitive Science. Elsevier.
    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 (...)
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  46. The Role of Oral History in Surviving a Eugenic Past.Robert A. Wilson - 2015 - In Steven High (ed.), Beyond Testimony and Trauma: Oral History in the Aftermath of Mass Violence. pp. 119-138.
    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 (...)
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  47. The Shadows and Shallows of Explanation.Robert A. Wilson & Frank C. Keil - 1998 - Minds and Machines 8 (1):137-159.
    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, (...)
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  48. A Puzzle About Material Constitution and How to Solve It: Enriching Constitution Views in Metaphysics.Robert A. Wilson - 2007 - Philosophers' Imprint 7:1-20.
    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 (...)
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  49. Primary and Secondary Qualities.Robert A. Wilson - 2016 - In Matthew Stuart (ed.), A Companion to Locke. Blackwell. pp. 193-211.
    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 (...)
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  50.  92
    Group-Level Cognition.Robert A. Wilson - 2001 - Philosophy of Science 3 (September):S262-S273.
    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 (...)
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