Robert C. Richardson

Robert C. Richardson is Charles Phelps Taft Professor of Philosophy and a University Distinguished Research Professor at the University of Cincinnati, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is the author of Evolutionary Psychology as Maladapted Psychology (MIT Press, 2007).

  • Discovering Complexity

    Discovering Complexity

    Decomposition and Localization as Strategies in Scientific Research

    William Bechtel and Robert C. Richardson

    An analysis of two heuristic strategies for the development of mechanistic models, illustrated with historical examples from the life sciences.

    In Discovering Complexity, William Bechtel and Robert Richardson examine two heuristics that guided the development of mechanistic models in the life sciences: decomposition and localization. Drawing on historical cases from disciplines including cell biology, cognitive neuroscience, and genetics, they identify a number of "choice points" that life scientists confront in developing mechanistic explanations and show how different choices result in divergent explanatory models. Describing decomposition as the attempt to differentiate functional and structural components of a system and localization as the assignment of responsibility for specific functions to specific structures, Bechtel and Richardson examine the usefulness of these heuristics as well as their fallibility—the sometimes false assumption underlying them that nature is significantly decomposable and hierarchically organized.

    When Discovering Complexity was originally published in 1993, few philosophers of science perceived the centrality of seeking mechanisms to explain phenomena in biology, relying instead on the model of nomological explanation advanced by the logical positivists (a model Bechtel and Richardson found to be utterly inapplicable to the examples from the life sciences in their study). Since then, mechanism and mechanistic explanation have become widely discussed. In a substantive new introduction to this MIT Press edition of their book, Bechtel and Richardson examine both philosophical and scientific developments in research on mechanistic models since 1993.

    • Paperback $35.00 £27.00
  • Evolutionary Psychology as Maladapted Psychology

    Evolutionary Psychology as Maladapted Psychology

    Robert C. Richardson

    A philosopher subjects the claims of evolutionary psychology to the evidential and methodological requirements of evolutionary biology, concluding that evolutionary psychology's explanations amount to speculation disguised as results.

    Human beings, like other organisms, are the products of evolution. Like other organisms, we exhibit traits that are the product of natural selection. Our psychological capacities are evolved traits as much as are our gait and posture. This much few would dispute. Evolutionary psychology goes further than this, claiming that our psychological traits—including a wide variety of traits, from mate preference and jealousy to language and reason—can be understood as specific adaptations to ancestral Pleistocene conditions. In Evolutionary Psychology as Maladapted Psychology, Robert Richardson takes a critical look at evolutionary psychology by subjecting its ambitious and controversial claims to the same sorts of methodological and evidential constraints that are broadly accepted within evolutionary biology.

    The claims of evolutionary psychology may pass muster as psychology; but what are their evolutionary credentials? Richardson considers three ways adaptive hypotheses can be evaluated, using examples from the biological literature to illustrate what sorts of evidence and methodology would be necessary to establish specific evolutionary and adaptive explanations of human psychological traits. He shows that existing explanations within evolutionary psychology fall woefully short of accepted biological standards. The theories offered by evolutionary psychologists may identify traits that are, or were, beneficial to humans. But gauged by biological standards, there is inadequate evidence: evolutionary psychologists are largely silent on the evolutionary evidence relevant to assessing their claims, including such matters as variation in ancestral populations, heritability, and the advantage offered to our ancestors. As evolutionary claims they are unsubstantiated. Evolutionary psychology, Richardson concludes, may offer a program of research, but it lacks the kind of evidence that is generally expected within evolutionary biology. It is speculation rather than sound science—and we should treat its claims with skepticism.

    • Hardcover $7.75 £6.95
    • Paperback $9.75 £7.99


  • Foundational Issues in Human Brain Mapping

    Foundational Issues in Human Brain Mapping

    Stephen José Hanson and Martin Bunzl

    Neuroimagers and philosophers of mind explore critical issues and controversies that have arisen from the use of brain mapping in cognitive neuroscience and cognitive science.

    The field of neuroimaging has reached a watershed. Brain imaging research has been the source of many advances in cognitive neuroscience and cognitive science over the last decade, but recent critiques and emerging trends are raising foundational issues of methodology, measurement, and theory. Indeed, concerns over interpretation of brain maps have created serious controversies in social neuroscience, and, more important, point to a larger set of issues that lie at the heart of the entire brain mapping enterprise. In this volume, leading scholars—neuroimagers and philosophers of mind—reexamine these central issues and explore current controversies that have arisen in cognitive science, cognitive neuroscience, computer science, and signal processing. The contributors address both statistical and dynamical analysis and modeling of neuroimaging data and interpretation, discussing localization, modularity, and neuroimagers' tacit assumptions about how these two phenomena are related; controversies over correlation of fMRI data and social attributions (recently characterized for good or ill as "voodoo correlations"); and the standard inferential design approach in neuroimaging. Finally, the contributors take a more philosophical perspective, considering the nature of measurement in brain imaging, and offer a framework for novel neuroimaging data structures (effective and functional connectivity—"graphs").

    Contributors William Bechtel, Bharat Biswal, Matthew Brett, Martin Bunzl, Max Coltheart, Karl J. Friston, Joy J. Geng, Clark Glymour, Kalanit Grill-Spector, Stephen José Hanson, Trevor Harley, Gilbert Harman, James V. Haxby, Rik N. Henson, Nancy Kanwisher, Colin Klein, Richard Loosemore, Sébastien Meriaux, Chris Mole, Jeanette A. Mumford, Russell A. Poldrack, Jean-Baptiste Poline, Richard C. Richardson, Alexis Roche, Adina L. Roskies, Pia Rotshtein, Rebecca Saxe, Philipp Sterzer, Bertrand Thirion, Edward Vul

    • Hardcover $16.75 £13.99
    • Paperback $19.75 £14.99