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Robert Arp

Robert Arp has authored numerous articles and book chapters in ontology (in the information science sense), philosophy of mind, philosophy of biology, modern philosophy, and popular culture. He is the author of Scenario Visualization: An Evolutionary Account of Creative Problem Solving (MIT Press, 2008). He is also coauthor of Building Ontologies with Basic Formal Ontology (MIT Press, in preparation) and Reasoning Well: An Introduction to Critical Thinking and is coeditor of Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Biology and Philosophy of Biology: An Anthology.

Titles by This Author

An Evolutionary Account of Creative Problem Solving

In order to solve problems, humans are able to synthesize apparently unrelated concepts, take advantage of serendipitous opportunities, hypothesize, invent, and engage in other similarly abstract and creative activities, primarily through the use of their visual systems. In Scenario Visualization, Robert Arp offers an evolutionary account of the unique human ability to solve nonroutine vision-related problems. He argues that by the close of the Pleistocene epoch, humans evolved a conscious creative problem-solving capacity, which he terms scenario visualization, that enabled them to outlive other hominid species and populate the planet. Arp shows that the evidence for scenario visualization—by which images are selected, integrated, and then transformed and projected into visual scenarios—can be found in the kinds of complex tools our hominid ancestors invented in order to survive in the ever-changing environments of the Pleistocene world.

Arp also argues that this conscious capacity shares an analogous affinity with neurobiological processes of selectivity and integration in the visual system, and that similar processes can be found in the activities of organisms in general. The evolution of these processes, he writes, helps account for the modern-day conscious ability of humans to use visual information to solve nonroutine problems creatively in their environments. Arp’s account of scenario visualization and its emergence in evolutionary history suggests an answer to two basic questions asked by philosophers and biologists concerning human nature: why we are unique; and how we got that way.

Robert Arp is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the National Center for Biomedical Ontology. His areas of specialization include philosophy of biology and philosophy of mind. He is the author of numerous articles and the forthcoming An Integrated Approach to the Philosophy of Mind.

Titles by This Editor

Philosophical and Scientific Perspectives

Information shapes biological organization in fundamental ways and at every organizational level. Because organisms use information--including DNA codes, gene expression, and chemical signaling--to construct, maintain, repair, and replicate themselves, it would seem only natural to use information-related ideas in our attempts to understand the general nature of living systems, the causality by which they operate, the difference between living and inanimate matter, and the emergence, in some biological species, of cognition, emotion, and language. And yet philosophers and scientists have been slow to do so. This volume fills that gap. Information and Living Systems offers a collection of original chapters in which scientists and philosophers discuss the informational nature of biological organization at levels ranging from the genetic to the cognitive and linguistic.

The chapters examine not only familiar information-related ideas intrinsic to the biological sciences but also broader information-theoretic perspectives used to interpret their significance. The contributors represent a range of disciplines, including anthropology, biology, chemistry, cognitive science, information theory, philosophy, psychology, and systems theory, thus demonstrating the deeply interdisciplinary nature of the volume’s bioinformational theme.