Language evolution seminar
Speaker: Andrew Buskell (University of Cambridge)
Title: Cognitive Novelties, Informational Form, and Structural-Causal Explanations
Abstract: Over the last thirty years, an increasing number of researchers have argued that cultural evolution is important for understanding human cognition and evolutionary history. Their claims range from the mundane to the surprising. One of the more radical holds that central cognitive capacities—at least language, mindreading, and imitation—result from developmental interaction with cultural traditions. Researchers like Kim Sterelny, Cecilia Heyes, and Dan Dennett have put forward adaptationist explanations to make plausible these surprising claims. Here I argue for a complementary project based around structural-causal explanations. Analogous to those found in evolutionary developmental biology, these explanations highlight the importance of structured relationships among informational elements. Focusing on how these end up mirrored in cognition, I argue that structural-causal explanations flesh out adaptationist explanations; they give a way of understanding how developmental interaction with culturally evolved bits of information can change cognitive functioning.
Seminars are organised by the Centre for Language Evolution