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Concepts in the Light of Evolution

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

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 Osnabrueck

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 Darwin’s The Descent of Man University of Osnabrueck

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

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

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 Osnabrueck

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

8 The Goal of This Course 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). University of Osnabrueck

9 The Goal of This Course 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. University of Osnabrueck

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

11 Generalization and abstraction
Generalization over more heterogeneous stimuli Example 1: Swallows Example 2: Omnivorous animals Even more complex generalizations Semantic hierarchy: rhesus monkeys Classification of paintings: pigeons Generalization over reflex actions Objects Food High quality Low quality Not-Food Swallow: P. 22 (37 of pdf file) Omnivorous & Rhesus monkeys & Pigeons: P. 23 ( 38 of pdf file) Picasso Braque&Matisse Monet Cezanne&Renoir

12 Relational Concepts Thompson (1997): relation between relations
Pedderberg (2000): second-order judgments Premack and Premack (1983): Match-to-Sample; MTS MTS & relation between relations: P. 26 (41 of pdf file) Alex: P. 28 (43 of pdf file)

13 Alex, the Einstein of Parrots

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. Uncertainty-monitoring: P. 30 (45 of pdf file)

15 Evidence Giving alarm calls P. 32 (45 of pdf file)

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

17 Some References University of Osnabrueck

18 Some References University of Osnabrueck

19 Some References University of Osnabrueck

20 Some References University of Osnabrueck

21 Contents of the Book University of Osnabrueck

22 Some Colleagues University of Osnabrueck

23 Evolution

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

25 Semantics and Pragmatics (Orthodox)
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

26 Semantics and Pragmatics (orthodox)
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

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

28 Semantics: Modern & Evolutionary
Meaning World Modern Semantics: Language World Orthodox Mental Representation University of Osnabrueck

29 Semantics: Modern & Evolutionary
Language Mind World University of Osnabrueck

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

31 So: 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) University of Osnabrueck

32 So: 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). University of Osnabrueck

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

34 This is as opposed to Wittgenstein’s idea
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. University of Osnabrueck

35 But: 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). University of Osnabrueck

36 But: 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). University of Osnabrueck

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: 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). University of Osnabrueck

39 Hippocampus 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. University of Osnabrueck

40 Perception & Intentionality
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) 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 University of Osnabrueck

41 A Quote from John Searle
“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) University of Osnabrueck

42 Perception & Intentionality
Concepts 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). Learned Innate: e. g. Instinctive fear of snakes and spiders Experience Products of natural selection Evolutionary accidents Perception University of Osnabrueck


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