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Philosophy of Mind

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New Developments in Psychology, Philosophy of Mind, and Social Neuroscience
Edited by Axel Seemann

Academic interest in the phenomenon of joint attention—the capacity to attend to an object together with another creature—has increased rapidly over the past two decades. Yet it isn’t easy to spell out in detail what joint attention is, how it ought to be characterized, and what exactly its significance consists in. The writers for this volume address these and related questions by drawing on a variety of disciplines, including developmental and comparative psychology, philosophy of mind, and social neuroscience.

How Evolution Made Humans Unique

Over the last three million years or so, our lineage has diverged sharply from those of our great ape relatives. Change has been rapid (in evolutionary terms) and pervasive. Morphology, life history, social life, sexual behavior, and foraging patterns have all shifted sharply away from those of the other great apes. In The Evolved Apprentice, Kim Sterelny argues that the divergence stems from the fact that humans gradually came to enrich the learning environment of the next generation.

Consciousness, Concepts, and Higher-Order Thoughts

Consciousness is arguably the most important area within contemporary philosophy of mind and perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the world. Despite an explosion of research from philosophers, psychologists, and scientists, attempts to explain consciousness in neurophysiological, or even cognitive, terms are often met with great resistance.

Externalism and Moral Psychology

What are the psychological foundations of morality? Historically, the issue has been framed as one of emotion versus reason. Hume argued that reason is the slave of the passions and so morality must be based on them; Kant argued that moral law is given by rational agents to themselves in virtue of their rationality. The debate has continued in these terms to the present day. In Like-Minded, Andrew Sneddon argues that "reason" and "passion" do not satisfactorily capture all the important options for explaining the psychological foundations of morality.

The Debate over What Animals Know about Other Minds

Animals live in a world of other minds, human and nonhuman, and their well-being and survival often depends on what is going on in the minds of these other creatures. But do animals know that other creatures have minds? And how would we know if they do? In Mindreading Animals, Robert Lurz offers a fresh approach to the hotly debated question of mental-state attribution in nonhuman animals.

The Nature and Moral Significance of Disgust

People can be disgusted by the concrete and by the abstract—by an object they find physically repellent or by an ideology or value system they find morally abhorrent. Different things will disgust different people, depending on individual sensibilities or cultural backgrounds. In Yuck!, Daniel Kelly investigates the character and evolution of disgust, with an emphasis on understanding the role this emotion has come to play in our social and moral lives.

A New Philosophical Direction

The language of thought (LOT) approach to the nature of mind has been highly influential in cognitive science and the philosophy of mind; and yet, as Susan Schneider argues, its philosophical foundations are weak.

Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind

Some things are funny—jokes, puns, sitcoms, Charlie Chaplin, The Far Side, Malvolio with his yellow garters crossed—but why? Why does humor exist in the first place? Why do we spend so much of our time passing on amusing anecdotes, making wisecracks, watching The Simpsons? In Inside Jokes, Matthew Hurley, Daniel Dennett, and Reginald Adams offer an evolutionary and cognitive perspective. Humor, they propose, evolved out of a computational problem that arose when our long-ago ancestors were furnished with open-ended thinking.

Toward a New Paradigm for Cognitive Science

This book presents the framework for a new, comprehensive approach to cognitive science. The proposed paradigm, enaction, offers an alternative to cognitive science's classical, first-generation Computational Theory of Mind (CTM). Enaction, first articulated by Varela, Thompson, and Rosch in The Embodied Mind (MIT Press, 1991), breaks from CTM’s formalisms of information processing and symbolic representations to view cognition as grounded in the sensorimotor dynamics of the interactions between a living organism and its environment.

New Perspectives on the Causal Theory of Action

The causal theory of action (CTA) is widely recognized in the literature of the philosophy of action as the "standard story" of human action and agency—the nearest approximation in the field to a theoretical orthodoxy. This volume brings together leading figures working in action theory today to discuss issues relating to the CTA and its applications, which range from experimental philosophy to moral psychology.

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