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Common minds, uncommon thoughts: a philosophical anthropological investigation of uniquely human creative behavior, with an emphasis on artistic ability, religious reflection, and scientific study

Johan De Smedt (2011)
abstract
The aim of this dissertation is to create a naturalistic philosophical picture of creative capacities that are specific to our species, focusing on artistic ability, religious reflection, and scientific study. By integrating data from diverse domains (evolutionary and developmental psychology, cognitive anthropology and archeology, neuroscience) within a philosophical anthropological framework, I have presented a cognitive and evolutionary approach to the question of why humans, but not other animals engage in such activities. Through an application of cognitive and evolutionary perspectives to the study of these behaviors, I have sought to provide a more solid footing for philosophical anthropological discussions of uniquely human behavior. In particular, I have argued that art, religion and science, which are usually seen as achievements that are quite remote from ordinary modes of reasoning, are subserved by evolved cognitive processes that serve functions in everyday cognitive tasks, that arise early and spontaneously in cognitive development, that are shared cross-culturally, and that have evolved in response to selective pressures in our ancestral past. These mundane cognitive processes provide a measuring rod with which we can assess a diversity of cultural phenomena; they form a unified explanatory framework to approach human culture. I have argued that we can explain uncommon thoughts (exceptional human achievements, such as art, religion and science) in terms of interactions between common minds (ordinary human minds that share their knowledge through cultural transmission). This dissertation is subdivided into four parts. Part I outlines the problem of human uniqueness, examining theories on how humans conceptualize the world, and what their mental tool box looks like. Part II discusses the evolutionary and cognitive origins of human artistic behavior. Part III focuses on the cognitive science of religion, especially on how it can be applied to the reasoning of theologians and philosophers of religion. Part IV considers the cognitive basis of scientific practice.
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
promoter
UGent
organization
alternative title
Gewone geesten, buitengewone gedachten : een wijsgerig antropologisch onderzoek naar uniek menselijk gedrag, met nadruk op artistieke capaciteiten, religieuze reflectie en wetenschappelijke studie
year
type
dissertation
publication status
published
subject
keyword
philosophy of cognitive science, cognitive science of religion, philosophy of art, philosophy of mind, cognitive science of science, philosophical anthropology, cognitive archaeology
pages
XVI, 416 pages
publisher
Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy
place of publication
Ghent, Belgium
defense location
Gent : Het Pand (zaal rector Blancquaert)
defense date
2011-05-03 16:00
ISBN
9789070830212
language
English
UGent publication?
yes
classification
D1
additional info
dissertation consists of copyrighted material
copyright statement
I have retained and own the full copyright for this publication
id
1246576
handle
http://hdl.handle.net/1854/LU-1246576
date created
2011-05-30 08:58:07
date last changed
2017-01-16 10:38:04
@phdthesis{1246576,
  abstract     = {The aim of this dissertation is to create a naturalistic philosophical picture of creative capacities that are specific to our species, focusing on artistic ability, religious reflection, and scientific study. By integrating data from diverse domains (evolutionary and developmental psychology, cognitive anthropology and archeology, neuroscience) within a philosophical anthropological framework, I have presented a cognitive and evolutionary approach to the question of why humans, but not other animals engage in such activities. Through an application of cognitive and evolutionary perspectives to the study of these behaviors, I have sought to provide a more solid footing for philosophical anthropological discussions of uniquely human behavior. In particular, I have argued that art, religion and science, which are usually seen as achievements that are quite remote from ordinary modes of reasoning, are subserved by evolved cognitive processes that serve functions in everyday cognitive tasks, that arise early and spontaneously in cognitive development, that are shared cross-culturally, and that have evolved in response to selective pressures in our ancestral past. These mundane cognitive processes provide a measuring rod with which we can assess a diversity of cultural phenomena; they form a unified explanatory framework to approach human culture. I have argued that we can explain uncommon thoughts (exceptional human achievements, such as art, religion and science) in terms of interactions between common minds (ordinary human minds that share their knowledge through cultural transmission). This dissertation is subdivided into four parts. Part I outlines the problem of human uniqueness, examining theories on how humans conceptualize the world, and what their mental tool box looks like. Part II discusses the evolutionary and cognitive origins of human artistic behavior. Part III focuses on the cognitive science of religion, especially on how it can be applied to the reasoning of theologians and philosophers of religion. Part IV considers the cognitive basis of scientific practice.},
  author       = {De Smedt, Johan},
  isbn         = {9789070830212},
  keyword      = {philosophy of cognitive science,cognitive science of religion,philosophy of art,philosophy of mind,cognitive science of science,philosophical anthropology,cognitive archaeology},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {XVI, 416},
  publisher    = {Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy},
  school       = {Ghent University},
  title        = {Common minds, uncommon thoughts: a philosophical anthropological investigation of uniquely human creative behavior, with an emphasis on artistic ability, religious reflection, and scientific study},
  year         = {2011},
}

Chicago
De Smedt, Johan. 2011. “Common Minds, Uncommon Thoughts: a Philosophical Anthropological Investigation of Uniquely Human Creative Behavior, with an Emphasis on Artistic Ability, Religious Reflection, and Scientific Study”. Ghent, Belgium: Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy.
APA
De Smedt, Johan. (2011). Common minds, uncommon thoughts: a philosophical anthropological investigation of uniquely human creative behavior, with an emphasis on artistic ability, religious reflection, and scientific study. Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Ghent, Belgium.
Vancouver
1.
De Smedt J. Common minds, uncommon thoughts: a philosophical anthropological investigation of uniquely human creative behavior, with an emphasis on artistic ability, religious reflection, and scientific study. [Ghent, Belgium]: Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy; 2011.
MLA
De Smedt, Johan. “Common Minds, Uncommon Thoughts: a Philosophical Anthropological Investigation of Uniquely Human Creative Behavior, with an Emphasis on Artistic Ability, Religious Reflection, and Scientific Study.” 2011 : n. pag. Print.