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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

(2011)
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(UGent)
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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.
Keywords
philosophy of cognitive science, cognitive science of religion, philosophy of art, philosophy of mind, cognitive science of science, philosophical anthropology, cognitive archaeology

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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.
@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},
}