PPIG: Philosophy, Psychology, and Informatics Group

Speaker: Andrew Buskell (University of Cambridge)

Title: Cumulative Culture and Cognitive Novelties

Abstract: A key interest of cognitive science is to understand what makes humans cognitively distinct. This interest often takes the form of researchers identifying putatively unique traits—cognitive novelties—not shared with other species. For a long time, accounts of cognitive novelties were dominated by those appealing almost solely to processes of biological evolution and adaptation. More recently, a new family of accounts has highlighted the importance of cultural evolution. On this latter family of accounts, human cognition is replete with culturally evolved cognitive novelties. But how does cultural evolution explain such novelties? Much of the work in this area appeals to cumulative cultural evolution as a central explanatory concept. Drawing together a few strands of my research, I’ll be identifying a number of concerns with the contemporary use of the concept to explain culturally evolved cognitive novelties. As I’ll suggest, the concept lumps together a number of distinct explanatory patterns and elements that should be distinguished. Doing so allows one to clarify what is at stake in explanations of culturally evolved cognitive novelties and what type of explanatory pattern should be used in any given case.

Further information

We are a group of researchers from diverse backgrounds in the above-mentioned groups (and beyond) who aim to gain an interdisciplinary yet deep understanding of the threads that bind the human mind and the world. In particular, this seminar series focuses on the nature of cognition, metacognition and social cognition. We’ll be tackling questions such as, what does it mean to think? What does it mean to think about thinking? And, what does it mean to think about one’s own thinking versus thinking about the thinking of other people? Please come along!

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Contact details

Tillmann Vierkant

Nov 17 2021 -

PPIG: Philosophy, Psychology, and Informatics Group

2021-11-17: Cumulative Culture and Cognitive Novelties

Medical School Lecture Theatre G07 (Doorway 4), Medical School (Old Medical School), Teviot Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9AG