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Abstract: How Does the Environment Affect the Person? Mark H. Bickhard invited chapter in Children's Development within Social Contexts: Metatheoretical, Theoretical and Methodological Issues, Erlbaum. edited by L. T. Winegar, J. Valsiner, in press
Abstract: It is often taken for granted in standard theories of interpretation that there cannot be intentionality without rationality. According to the background argument, a system can be interpreted as having irrational beliefs only against a general background of rationality. Starting from the widespread assumption that delusions can be reasonably described as irrational beliefs, I argue here that the background argument fails to account for their intentional description
Abstract: This paper argues that the influence of language on science, philosophy and other field is mediated by communicative practices. Where communications is more restrictive, established linguistic structures exercise a tighter control over innovations and scientifically motivated reforms of language. The viewpoint here centers on the thesis that argumentation is crucial in the understanding and evaluation of proposed reforms and that social practices which limit argumentation serve to erode scientific objectivity. Thus, a plea is made for a sociology of scientific belief designed to understand and insure social-institutional conditions of the possibility of knowledge and its growth. A chief argument draws on work of Axelrod concerning the evolution of cooperation.
Abstract: This chapter examines the extent to which there are continuities between the cognitive processes and epistemic practices engaged in by human hunter-gatherers, on the one hand, and those which are distinctive of science, on the other. It deploys anthropological evidence against any form of 'no-continuity' view, drawing especially on the cognitive skills involved in the art of tracking. It also argues against the 'child-as-scientist' accounts put forward by some developmental psychologists, which imply that scientific thinking is present in early infancy and universal amongst humans who have sufficient time and resources to devote to it. In contrast, a modularist kind of 'continuity' account is proposed, according to which the innately channelled architecture of human cognition provides all the materials necessary for basic forms of scientific reasoning in older children and adults, needing only the appropriate sorts of external support, social context, and background beliefs and skills in order for science to begin its advance
Abstract: Thought happens. Here I sit, sipping coffee, scribbling on paper, accessing files, reading and re-reading those four wonderful, challenging, yet immaculately constructive reviews. And somewhere, and to my eternal surprise, thought happens. But where, amidst the whirl of organization, should we locate the cognitive process? One possibility is that everything worth counting as (all or part) of any genuinely cognitive process hereabouts is firmly located inside the head, safe behind the ancient fortress of skin and skull. All the rest, according to this surgically neat view, is scene setting: preparing and maintaining the pitch upon which the great thinking organ performs
Abstract: In this paper, we discuss the thesis of selective representing — the idea that the contents of the mental representations had by organisms are highly constrained by the biological niches within which the organisms evolved. While such a thesis has been defended by several authors elsewhere, our primary concern here is to take up the issue of the compatibility of selective representing and realism. In this paper we hope to show three things. First, that the notion of selective representing is fully consistent with the realist idea of a mind-independent world. Second, that not only are these two consistent, but that the latter (the realist conception of a mind-independent world) provides the most powerful perspective from which to motivate and understand the differing perceptual and cog- nitive proﬁles themselves. And third, that the (genuine and important) sense in which organism and environment may together constitute an integrated system of scientiﬁc interest poses no additional threat to the realist conception
Abstract: In this paper, I explore the question of whether the expectedconsequences of holding a belief can affect the rationality ofdoing so. Special attention is given to various ways in whichone might attempt to exert some measure of control over whatone believes and the normative status of the beliefs thatresult from the successful execution of such projects. I arguethat the lessons which emerge from thinking about the case ofbelief have important implications for the way we should thinkabout the rationality of a number of other propositional attitudes,such as regret, desire, and fear. Finally,I suggest that a lack of clarity with respect to the relevant issueshas given rise to a number of rather serious philosophical mistakes
Abstract: This paper offers a new definition of "adaptationism". An evolutionary account is adaptationist, it is suggested, if it allows for multiple independent origins for the same function -- i.e., if it violates the "Unique Origin Constraint". While this account captures much of the position Gould and Lewontin intended to stigmatize, it leaves it open that adaptationist accounts may sometimes be appropriate. However, there are many important cases, including that of human rationality, in which it is not.
Abstract: My primary aim in Irrationality: An Essay on Akrasia, Self-Deception, and Self-Control (1987) is to show that and how akratic action and self-deception are possible. The control that normal agents have over their actions and beliefs figures in the analysis and explanation of both phenomena. For that reason, an examination of self-control plays a central role in the book. In addition, I devote a chapter each to akratic belief and the explanation of intentional action. A precis of the book will provide a useful context for the three essays that follow
Abstract: The strategy of this paper is to throw light on rational cognition and epistemic justification by examining irrationality. Epistemic irrationality is possible because we are reflexive cognizers, able to reason about and redirect some aspects of our own cognition. One consequence of this is that one cannot give a theory of epistemic rationality or epistemic justification without simultaneously giving a theory of practical rationality. A further consequence is that practical irrationality can affect our epistemic cognition. I argue that practical irrationality derives from a general difficulty we have in overriding built-in shortcut modules aimed at making cognition more efficient, and all epistemic irrationality can be traced to this same source. A consequence of this account is that a theory of rationality is a descriptive theory, describing contingent features of a cognitive architecture, and it forms the core of a general theory of “voluntary” cognition — those aspects of cognition that are under voluntary control. It also follows that most of the so-called “rules for rationality” that philosophers have proposed are really just rules describing default (non- reflexive) cognition. It can be perfectly rational for a reflexive cognizer to break these rules. The “normativity” of rationality is a reflection of a built-in feature of reflexive cognition — when we detect violations of rationality, we have a tendency to desire to correct them. This is just another part of the descriptive theory of rationality. Although theories of rationality are descriptive, the structure of reflexive cognition gives philosophers, as human cognizers, privileged access to certain aspects of rational cognition. Philosophical theories of rationality are really scientific theories, based on inference to the best explanation, that take contingent introspective data as the evidence to be explained.
Abstract: Many different arguments against the possibility of perfect rationality have appeared in the literature, and these target several different conceptions of perfect rationality. It is not clear how these different conceptions of perfect rationality are related, nor is it clear how the arguments showing their impossibility are related, and it is especially unclear what the impossibility results show when taken together. This paper gives an exposition of the different conceptions of perfect rationality, an the various sorts of argument against them; clarifies which conceptions of perfect rationality are targeted by which arguments; and finally attempts to systematize the results available to date
Abstract: It is indeed important to identify the rich variety of systems for the adaptive control of behaviour, rather than squeezing this richness into a few boxes. We need to recognise both the variety of systems for the cognitive control of adaptive behaviour and to chart the relationships between such systems. But I shall argue that these projects are not best pursued by asking about the extent of animal rationality. The argument develops in three stages. The first outlines a picture of the selective regimes that drive the evolution of the sophisticated use of information by animal agents. The second argues that hominid cognition has evolved in response to a somewhat different set of
challenges and that (as a consequence) the transmission of social information and skill has come to be both a critical and an unusual feature of hominid selective and developmental environments. The third draws upon the ideas of Dan Sperber and others in arguing that the social transmission of information introduces (or makes much more important) a vetting problem. I shall suggest that we see rationality as an evolved response to this vetting problem