Reconstructing Reason and Representation
192 pp., 6 x 9 in, 4 illus.
- Published: June 11, 2004
- Published: June 7, 2022
A study of the philosophical implications of evolutionary psychology, suggesting that knowledge is a set of natural kinds housed in the modules of a massively modular mind.
In Reconstructing Reason and Representation, Murray Clarke offers a detailed study of the philosophical implications of evolutionary psychology. In doing so, he offers new solutions to key problems in epistemology and philosophy of mind, including misrepresentation and rationality. He proposes a naturalistic approach to reason and representation that is informed by evolutionary psychology, and, expanding on the massive modularity thesis advanced in work by Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, argues for a modular, adapticist account of misrepresentation and knowledge. Just as the reliability of representation can be defended on the basis of an account of the proper function of cognitive modularity, misrepresentation can be explained through an appeal to the "gap theory," by noting the divergence between the proper and actual domains of cognitive modules in a massively modular mind.
Clarke argues for an externalist, modular reliabilism by suggesting that evolution has equipped us with generally reliable inferential systems even if they do not always produce true beliefs. He argues that reliable deductive and inductive inference occurs only when cognitive modules deal with actual domains that are sufficiently similar to their proper domains. This psychologically informed, naturalized adapticism leads to the suggestion that knowledge is a set of natural kinds housed in the modules of a massively modular mind. Typically, the proper function of these cognitive modules is to provide us with truths that enable us to satisfy our basic biological needs. Beyond reasoning modules, other cognitive modules discussed include the ability to orient ourselves in space, and our abilities with language, numbers, object reasoning, and social understanding. Clarke also defends Cosmides and Tooby's massive modularity hypothesis against such critics as Jerry Fodor by demonstrating that these critics consistently misrepresent Cosmides and Tooby's position.
Bradford Books imprint
This book is what you get when you cross-pollinate classical epistemology with contemporary evolutionary psychology. Indeed, Clarke may have reinvented evolutionary epistemology. While cognitive scientists have seen this coming for a long time, classical epistemologists may look upon this offspring as a Clarkenstein monster. Nonetheless, those who follow Quine's desire to naturalize epistemology will embrace this book. Either way, this is a book whose time has come.
Fred Adams, Professor of Cognitive Science and Philosophy, and Chair of Philosophy, University of Delaware
The evolutionary approach to human psychology and the massive modularity that is usually a feature of it has powerful protagonists and equally powerful antagonists. Using both empirical research and philosophical analysis, Clarke defends the approach against its detractors—Fodor in particular—and uses it to shed important new light on some major issues: the problem of misrepresentation, the role of indexical representation, the justification of belief, and the nature of knowledge.
Andrew Brook, Professor of Philosophy and Director, Institute of Cognitive Science, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada