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Concepts in the Light of Evolution Reza Maleeh Institute of Cognitive Science University of Osnabrück University of Osnabrueck1.

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Presentation on theme: "Concepts in the Light of Evolution Reza Maleeh Institute of Cognitive Science University of Osnabrück University of Osnabrueck1."— Presentation transcript:

1 Concepts in the Light of Evolution Reza Maleeh Institute of Cognitive Science University of Osnabrück University of Osnabrueck1

2 Four Influential Books Chalmers, D. J. (1996) The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Baggott, J. (2004) Beyond Measure: Modern Physics, Philosophy, and the Meaning of Quantum Theory. New York: Oxford University Press. Roederer, J.G. (2005) Information and Its Role in Nature. Berlin Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag. Hurford, J. R. (2007) The Origins of Meaning: Language in the Light of Evolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press. University of Osnabrueck2

3 The Message of the Book Is: The continuity between non-human animals and humans as far as concepts and propositions are concerned The same as Darwins The Descent of Man University of Osnabrueck3

4 The Message of the Book Is: Much that can be reasonably labelled propositional and conceptual existed before modern public language. University of Osnabrueck4

5 What is a Language? University of Osnabrueck5 Meaning Vocal Sounds & Manual Signs Language Semantics/Pragmatics Phonetic Both Ends Were Already There Even before Language

6 In the Beginning Was: the Word (St John in his gospel) the Sense or Meaning (Faust, at first) the Act (Faust, Finally) University of Osnabrueck6

7 In the Beginning Was: University of Osnabrueck7 Faust:ActionMeaning Word Hurford: Action Meaning Word

8 University of Osnabrueck The Goal of This Course 8 But some of what goes on in our heads when doing everyday tasks is naturally solipsistic, even primitive, using mechanisms that preceded the emergence of our societies. We share this kind of mental activity with (non-human) animals. Fitch (2005, p. 206) writes of rich cognitive abilities in non-human primates showing them as having quite complex minds, particularly in the social realm, but lacking a communicative mechanism capable of expressing most of this mental activity (Hurford, 2007, p. 2).

9 University of Osnabrueck The Goal of This Course 9 The first Part tries to sketch out the elements of a kind of animal thought about the world before communication with others began to trim thinking in newer ways. After exploring the kinds of mental structures that animals can build up for purely non-social ends, part II deals with the social aspect of meaning.

10 Evolutionary Succession: From Proto- Concepts to Linguistic Concepts Regular and systematic behaviour in connection with a thing Sufficient condition Possession of Language Sufficient condition A cat has a proto-concept of its habitual prey Example Generalization Free access and control over mental states 10 Necessary condition Necessary condition Proto-Concepts Pre-Linguistic Concepts Linguistic Concepts

11 Generalization and abstraction Generalization over reflex actions Generalization over more heterogeneous stimuli Example 1: Swallows Example 2: Omnivorous animals Even more complex generalizations Semantic hierarchy: rhesus monkeys Classification of paintings: pigeons 11 Picasso Braque&Matisse Monet Cezanne&Renoir ObjectsFood High quality Low quality Not- Food

12 Relational Concepts Premack and Premack (1983): Match-to- Sample; MTS Thompson (1997): relation between relations Pedderberg (2000): second-order judgments 12

13 Alex, the Einstein of Parrots 13

14 Free Will or Metacognition Uncertainty-monitoring: Capacity to recognize how sure or unsure one is in making a judgment Uncertainty-monitoring reveals a degree of awareness, or metacognition The capacity for metacognition involves the ability to take different attitudes to the content of propositions. 14

15 Evidence Giving alarm calls 15

16 Evolutionary Succession: From Proto- Concepts to Linguistic Concepts Regular and systematic behaviour in connection with a thing Sufficient condition Possession of Language Sufficient condition A cat has a proto-concept of its habitual prey Example Generalization Free access and control over mental states 16 Necessary condition Necessary condition Proto-Concepts Pre-Linguistic Concepts Linguistic Concepts

17 Some References University of Osnabrueck17

18 Some References University of Osnabrueck18

19 Some References University of Osnabrueck19

20 Some References University of Osnabrueck20

21 Contents of the Book University of Osnabrueck21

22 Some Colleagues University of Osnabrueck22

23 Evolution 23

24 What is a Language? University of Osnabrueck24 Meaning Vocal Sounds & Manual Signs Language Semantics/Pragmatics Phonetic Both Ends Were Already There Even before Language

25 Charles Sanders Peirce defined what he termed semiotics as the quasi- necessary, or formal doctrine of signs (Peirce, 1932, paragraph 227). Charles Morris defined semiotics as grouping the triad syntax, semantics, and pragmatics (Morris, 1938). University of Osnabrueck Semantics and Pragmatics (Orthodox) 25

26 Syntax studies the interrelation of the signs, without regard to meaning. Semantics studies the relation between the signs and the objects to which they apply. Pragmatics studies the relation between the sign system and its human (or animal) user. University of Osnabrueck Semantics and Pragmatics (orthodox) 26

27 University of Osnabrueck Semantics and Pragmatics (Orthodox) 27 Semantics: LanguageWorld Pragmatics: LanguageUserWorld (e.g. Russell 1905; Wittgenstein 1922; Carnap 1942; Montague 1970)

28 University of Osnabrueck Semantics: Modern & Evolutionary 28 Mental Representation Semantics: LanguageWorld Orthodox Semantics: MeaningWorld Modern

29 University of Osnabrueck Semantics: Modern & Evolutionary 29 Semantics: LanguageMindWorld

30 University of Osnabrueck Semantics and Pragmatics (Modern & Evolutionary) 30 Semantics: Ideational Meaning (reflective) (Halliday, 1985) Pragmatics: Interpersonal Meaning (active) (Halliday, 1985) To understand the environment (representation) To act on others (representation and action)

31 University of Osnabrueck So: 31 A natural evolutionary approach pushes one towards a more specific position, namely that mental representations of things and events in the world came before any corresponding expressions in language; the mental representations were phylogenetically prior to words and sentences (Hurford, 2007, p. 5)

32 University of Osnabrueck So: 32 Both ontologically and in order of explanation, the intentionality of the propositional attitudes is prior to the intentionality of natural languages; and both ontologically and in order of explanation, the intentionality of mental representations is prior to the intentionality of propositional attitudes (Fodor, 1998, p. 7).

33 University of Osnabrueck So: 33 Mental Representation Propositional Attitude Natural Language Intentionality

34 Wittgenstein: The limits of my language is the limits of my world. (Wittgenstein 1922, p. 6). This would imply that a languageless creature has no world. This is as opposed to Wittgensteins idea University of Osnabrueck34

35 But: University of Osnabrueck35 We can reasonably attribute beliefs and desires to non-human animals closely related to us. Many animals other than humans, especially mammals and birds, possess well developed knowledge-of-the-world (declarative memory) systems, and are capable of acquiring vast amounts of flexibly expressible information (Tulving and Markowitsch 1998, p. 202).

36 But: University of Osnabrueck36 Animals remember, and thus can be in mental states relating to past circumstances. There are many studies, in laboratories and in the wild, of memory for places and things in animals who cache food for later retrieval, or who parasitize the nests of other birds. These include studies of scrub jays (Griffiths et al. 1999), cowbirds (Clayton et al. 1997), and tits (Healy and Suhonen 1996).

37 37 Animals remember, and thus can be in mental states relating to past circumstances. There are many studies, in laboratories and in the wild, of memory for places and things in animals who cache food for later retrieval, or who parasitize the nests of other birds. These include studies of scrub jays (Griffiths et al. 1999), cowbirds (Clayton et al. 1997), and tits (Healy and Suhonen 1996).

38 But: University of Osnabrueck38 The neural basis for memory even in species quite distantly related to humans, such as birds, is very similar, with substantial involvement of the hippocampus in all cases (Reboreda et al. 1996; Clayton et al. 1997).

39 Hippocampus University of Osnabrueck39 The hippocampus is a major component of the brains of humans and other mammals. It belongs to the limbic system and plays important roles in the consolidation of information from short-term memory to long-term memory and spatial navigation.

40 Perception & Intentionality University of Osnabrueck40 1.These two mental aspects of the mind can be studied separately. Wilfrid Sellars (1956), Gilbert Ryle (1949), Wittgenstein (1953), Putnam (1975), Fodor (1991), and Donald Davidson (1983, 1986) 2.This group contains those who try to analyze consciousness totally in terms of intentionality. David Rosenthal, Peter Carruthers, Fred Dretske and Michael Tye. 3. This group grounds intentionality in consciousness. John Searle

41 A Quote from John Searle University of Osnabrueck41 Only a being that could have conscious intentional states could have intentional states at all, and every unconscious intentional state is at least potentially conscious […]. There is a conceptual connection between consciousness and intentionality that had the consequence that a complete theory of intentionality requires an account of consciousness. (Searle, 1992, p. 132)

42 Perception & Intentionality University of Osnabrueck42 Concepts Learned Innate: e. g. Instinctive fear of snakes and spiders Experience Perception It is through repeatedly perceiving salient objects and states of affairs of certain types, that the animal comes to have regular patterns of learned behaviour in relation to them. It seems reasonable to suppose that (apart from any innate concepts) an animal only has concepts of those types of things that it has at some time perceived (and only some of those). Evolutionary accidents Products of natural selection


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