Peculiarities in mind ; or, on the absence of Darwin

De Villiers-Botha, Tanya
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Philosophical Society of Southern Africa
A key failing in contemporary philosophy of mind is the lack of attention paid to evolutionary theory in its research projects. Notably, where evolution is incorporated into the study of mind, the work being done is often described as philosophy of cognitive science rather than philosophy of mind. Even then, whereas possible implications of the evolution of human cognition are taken more seriously within the cognitive sciences and the philosophy of cognitive science, its relevance for cognitive science has only been appreciated relatively recently, and the approach still comes in for some major criticism from prominent theorists within the field. This paper explores some of the reasons for this state of affairs and finds that it might have less to do with due consideration and well-founded scepticism about the relevance of evolutionary theory to these disciplines and more to do with historical accident and faulty assumptions on the part of key theorists in these disciplines. It is also noted that where cognitive scientists are taking evolution into account in their work on the mind, they straying more and more into domains that used to fall exclusively under the purview of philosophy of mind as it is traditionally conceived – qualia, consciousness, perception, intentionality and so forth. The point is made that in ignoring the work being done on the evolution of mind, philosophy of mind runs the risk of becoming obsolete.
The original publication is available at
Darwin, Charles, 1809-1882, Cognitive science, Cognition, Philosophy of mind
De Villiers-botha, T. 2011. Peculiarities in mind ; or, on the absence of Darwin. South African Journal of Philosopy, 30(3), 282-302,