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A Science of Human Nature?

Philosophical Disputes at the Interface of Natural and Social Science

Studying at Cambridge

 

Nature and Culture Reading Group

All are welcome to our events, including those sceptical of the cultural evolutionary project. In addition to philosophers and historians of science, we also hope to attract researchers from the biological sciences, psychology, and all branches of archaeology and anthropology. Please contact Samuel Murison (sjtm3@cam.ac.uk) if you have any problem finding the readings.

 

Lent Term 2016

This term's reading group will focus on the topic of evolution and ethics, including evolutionary debunking arguments, evolution and teleological ethics, environmental ethics and the ethics of human enhancement.

Meetings take place on Tuesdays 1-2pm, in Seminar Room 1, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Free School Lane, CB2 3RH.

 

19 January

Street, S., 2006, “A Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value”, Philosophical Studies 127: 109-166.

Introduced by Tim Lewens

 

26 January 

Copp, D., 2008, “Darwinian Skepticism about Moral Realism,” Philosophical Issues 18: 186–206; Mogensen, A., forthcoming, "Do evolutionary debunking arguments rest on a mistake about evolutionary explanations?” Philosophical Studies.

Introduced by Adrian Boutel

 

2 February

Foot, P., 2001, Natural Goodness, ch.2 “Natural Norms”, ch.3 “The Transition to Human Beings” and ch. 5, “Human Goodness”.

Introduced by Christopher Clarke

 

9 February

Fitzpatrick, W. Teleology and the Norms of Nature, ch. 6 “Welfare and Natural Teleology”; Lott, M., 2012, "Have Elephant Seals Refuted Aristotle? Nature, Function, and Moral Goodness” Journal of Moral Philosophy 9: 1-23.

Introduced by James Hutton

 

16 February

Smith, I., 2010, “The Role of Humility and Intrinsic Goods in Preserving Endangered Species: Why Preserve the Humpback Chub?”, Environmental Ethics 32: 165-182. 

Introduced by Riana Betzler

 

23 February

Nolt, J., 2006, "The Move from Good to Ought in Environmental Ethics", Environmental Ethics 28 (4):355-374 (2006).

Introduced by David Merry

 

1 March

Harris, J., 2009, “Enhancements are a Moral Obligation” and Juengst, E., 2009, “What’s Taxonomy Got to Do With It? Human Rights, Species Integrity and Science Policy” in Savulescu, J. and Bostrom, N. eds., “Human Enhancement”.

Introduced by Tim Lewens

 

8 March

Groll, D. and Lott, M., 2015, "Is There a Role for ‘Human Nature’ in Debates About Human Enhancement?”, Philosophy 90: 623-651.

Introduced by Ella Whiteley

 

Michaelmas Term 2015

This term's reading group will focus on the topic of emotion.

Meetings take place on Thursdays 1-2pm, in Seminar Room 1, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Free School Lane, CB2 3RH.

We will be discussing recent work on the emotions by philosophers, evolutionary psychologists, anthropologists, historians and cognitive scientists. Does it make sense to talk of basic emotions, or of emotions grounded in biology? On the other hand, do emotions vary between societies or over time? Can these two competing ideas be reconciled? If so, how?

 

8 October

Philosophers on What a Theory of Emotions Should Do

Goldie, Peter. 2007. “Emotion.” Philosophy Compass 2 (6): 928–38. doi:10.1111/j.1747-9991.2007.00105.x.

Robinson, Jenefer M. 2004. “Emotion: Biological Fact or Social Construction.” In Thinking About Feeling: Contemporary Philosophers on Emotions, edited by Robert C. Solomon, 28–44. Oxford University Press.

Introduced by Christopher Clarke

 

15 October 

Evolutionary Psychologists on the Function of Emotions

Cosmides, Leda, and John Tooby. “The Evolutionary Psychology of the Emotions.” In Handbook of Emotions. 3d ed. Edited by Michael Lewis, Jeannette Haviland-Jones, and Lisa Feldman Barrett, 114–137. New York: Guilford, 2008.

Ekman, Paul, and Daniel Cordaro. 2011. “What Is Meant by Calling Emotions Basic.” Emotion Review 3 (4): 364–70. doi:10.1177/1754073911410740. 

Introduced by Tim Lewens

 

22 October 

Neuroscientists and Developmental Psychologists on Basic Emotions

Izard, Carroll E. 2011. “Forms and Functions of Emotions: Matters of Emotion–Cognition Interactions.” Emotion Review 3 (4): 371–78. doi:10.1177/1754073911410737.

Levenson, Robert W. 2011. “Basic Emotion Questions.” Emotion Review 3 (4): 379–86. doi:10.1177/1754073911410743.

Panksepp, Jaak, and Douglas Watt. 2011. “What Is Basic about Basic Emotions? Lasting Lessons from Affective Neuroscience.” Emotion Review 3 (4): 387–96. doi:10.1177/1754073911410741.

Introduced by Adrian Boutel

 

29 October

How Do Emotions Vary Between Places and Societies?

Tsai, Jeanne L., James N. Butcher, Ricardo F. Muñoz, and Kelly Vitousek. 2002. “Culture, Ethnicity, and Psychopathology.” In Comprehensive Handbook of Psychopathology, edited by Patricia B. Sutker and Henry E. Adams, 105–27. Springer US.

  • Excerpt of pages 114-124 only

Wong, Ying, and Jeanne Tsai. 2007. “Cultural Models of Shame and Guilt.” The Self-Conscious Emotions: Theory and Research, 209–23.

Introduced by Riana Betzler

 

5 November

How Do Emotions Vary Between Places and Societies? II

Haidt, Jonathan, Paul Rozin, Clark Mccauley, and Sumio Imada. 1997. “Body, Psyche, and Culture: The Relationship between Disgust and Morality.” Psychology & Developing Societies 9 (1): 107–31. doi:10.1177/097133369700900105.

Introduced by Paulina Sliwa

 

12 November

Historians on Emotions in the Past

Matt, Susan J. 2011. “Current Emotion Research in History: Or, Doing History from the Inside Out.” Emotion Review 3 (1): 117–24. doi:10.1177/1754073910384416.

Reddy, William M. 1997. “Against Constructionism: The Historical Ethnography of Emotions.” Current Anthropology 38 (3): 327–51. doi:10.1086/204622.

  • We will discuss Reddy’s article only (pages 327-339) not the commentary (pages 339-351).

Introduced by Paul White

 

19 November

Anthropologists on How to Write about Emotions

Beatty, Andrew. 2010. “How Did It Feel for You? Emotion, Narrative, and the Limits of Ethnography.” American Anthropologist 112 (3): 430–43. doi:10.1111/j.1548-1433.2010.01250.x.

Beatty, Andrew. 2013. “Current Emotion Research in Anthropology: Reporting the Field.” Emotion Review 5 (4): 414–22. doi:10.1177/1754073913490045.

Introduced by Christina Toren

 

26 November

Are Emotions a natural kind? Have Philosophers Anything to Contribute?

Griffiths, Paul E. 2004. “Is Emotion a Natural Kind?” In Thinking About Feeling: Contemporary Philosophers on Emotions, edited by Robert C. Solomon, 233–50. Oxford University Press.

Griffiths, Paul E. 2013. “Current Emotion Research in Philosophy.” Emotion Review 5 (2): 215–22. doi:10.1177/1754073912468299.

 

 

 

Lent Term 2015

This term's reading group will focus on the philosophy of the biology of race.

Meetings take place on Tuesdays 1-2pm, in Seminar Room 1, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Free School Lane, CB2 3RH.

 

20 January

Mills, C. 1988. ‘But What Are You Really? The Metaphysics of Race’, Blackness Visible, Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, pp. 41-66

Introduced by Tim Lewens

 

27 January 

Glasgow, J. 2009. ‘Breaking Nature's Bones’, A Theory of Race, Oxford: Routledge, pp. 80-112.

Introduced by Chris Clarke

 

3 February 

Pigliucci, M. and Kaplan, J. 2003. ‘On the Concept of Biological Race and Its Applicability to Humans’, Philosophy of Science70, pp. 1161-72.

Introduced by Adrian Boutel

 

10 February 

Spencer, Q. 2014. ‘A Radical Solution to the Race Problem’, Philosophy of Science81, pp. 1025-38.

Introduced by Andrew Buskell

 

17 February 

Appiah, A. 2006. ‘How to Decide if Races Exist’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society106, pp. 365-82.

Introduced by Ella Whiteley

 

24 February 

Mallon, R. 2006. ‘“Race”: Normative Not Metaphysical or Semantic’, Ethics116, pp. 525-51.

Introduced by Marion Godman

 

3 March 

Haslanger, S. 2005. ‘What Are We Talking About? The Semantics and Politics of Social Kinds’, Hypatia20, pp. 10-26.

Introduced by Riana Betzler

 

10 March 

Gannett, L. 2010. ‘Questions Asked and Unasked: How by Worrying Less about the “Really Real” Philosophers of Science Might Better Contribute to Debates about Genetics and Race’, Synthese117, pp. 363-85.

Introduced by Dave Neale

 

 

 


Michaelmas Term 2014

This term, we will be reading selected chapters from Value-Free Science: Ideals and Illusions? (2007), edited by Harold Kincaid, John Dupre, and Alison Wylie (Oxford University Press).

 

Meetings take place on Tuesdays 1-2pm, in Seminar Room 1, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Free School Lane, CB2 3RH.

 

14 October

Root, M. 'How Should Sociologists Study Social Problems?'

Introduced by Tim Lewens

 

21 October

Hankinson, L. and Wylie, A. 'Coming to Terms with the Value(s) of Science: Insights from Feminist Science Scholarship'

Introduced by Chris Clarke

 

28 October

Wray, B. 'Evaluating Scientists'

Introduced by Marion Godman

 

4 November

Sober, E. 'Evidence and Value Freedom'

and

Douglas, H. 'Rejecting the Ideal of Value Free Science'

Introduced by Riana Betzler

 

11 November

Alexandrova, A. 2014. 'Can the Science of Well-Being Be Objective?

Introduced by Steve John

 

18 November

Roush, S. 'Constructive Empiricism and the Role of Social Values in Science'

Introduced by Andrew Buskell

 

25 November

Doppelt, G. 'The Value Ladenness of Scientific Knowledge'

Introduced by Stijn Conix

                                     

2 December

Kincaid, H. 'Contextualist Morals and Science'

Introduced by Adrian Boutel




 

Easter Term 2014

This term's reading group will focus on the theme of sex and gender.

 

Meetings take place on Tuesdays 1-2pm, in Seminar Room 1, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Free School Lane, CB2 3RH.

 

29 April

Lloyd, Elisabeth (1993) ‘Pre-Theoretical Assumptions in Evolutionary Explanations of Female Sexuality’, Philosophical Studies, 69, pp. 139-53

and

Longino, Helen (2012) ‘Defining Behavior’, Studying Human Behavior, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Chapter 9, pp. 151-177.

Introduced by Tim Lewens 

 

6 May

Pinker, Steven (2002) ‘Gender’, The Blank Slate, London: Penguin, excerpt pp. 346-51

and

Dupré, John (1986) ‘Sex, Gender and Essence’, Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 11, pp.  441-57.

Introduced by Riana Betzler

 

13 May

Jordan-Young, Rebecca M.  (2010) ‘Taking Context Seriously’, Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences, Harvard University Press, Chapter 9, pp. 237-69.

Introduced by Andrew Buskell

 

20 May

Haslanger, Sally (2000) ‘Gender and Race: (What) Are They? (What) Do We Want Them To Be?’, Noûs, 34, pp. 31-55.

Introduced by Rae Langton

 

27 May

Wood, Wendy and Eagly, Alice (2002) ‘A Cross-Cultural Analysis of the Behavior of Women and Men: Implications for the Origins of Sex Differences’, Psychological Bulletin, 128, pp. 699-727.

Introduced by Tim Lewens 

 

3 June

Thompson, Melissa Emery (2009) ‘Human Rape: Revising Evolutionary Perspectives’ in Martin N Muller and Richard W Wrangham (eds) Sexual Coercion in Primates and Humans: An Evolutionary Perspective on Male Aggression against Females, Harvard: Harvard University Press, Chapter 14, pp. 346-76.

Introduced by Marion Godman

 

10 June

Strathern, Marilyn (1988) ‘Anthropological Strategies’, The Gender of the Gift, Berkeley: University of California Press, Excerpt pp. 3-8.

and

Strathern, Marilyn (1988) ‘Groups: Sexual Antagonism in the New Guinea Highlands’, The Gender of the Gift, Berkeley: University of California Press, Chapter 3, pp. 43-65.

Introduced by Chris Clarke

 

17 June

Bach, Theodore (2012) ‘Gender Is a Natural Kind with a Historical Essence’, Ethics, 122, pp. 231-72.

Introduced by Adrian Boutel

 


Lent Term 2014

This term the reading group will focus on developmental systems theory and its critics. With the exception of week 5, we will be discussing various readings from Cycles of Contingency: Developmental Systems and Evolution, edited by Susan Oyama, Paul E. Griffiths, and Russell D. Gray.

 

Meetings take place on Tuesdays 1-2pm, in Seminar Room 1, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Free School Lane, CB2 3RH.

 

21 January 2014

Lewontin, R. C., ‘Gene, Organism, and Environment: A New Introduction’ (pp. 55-7) and ‘Gene, Organism, and Environment’ (pp. 59-66).

Introduced by Tim Lewens

 

28 January 2014

Laland, K.N., Odling-Smee, F. J. and Feldman, M. W., ‘Niche Construction, Ecological Inheritance, and Cycles of Contingency in Evolution’ (pp. 117-26).

Introduced by Adriana Alexander

 

4 February 2014

Griffiths, P. E. and Gray, R. D., ‘Darwinism and Developmental Systems’ (pp. 195-218).

Introduced by Marion Godman

 

11 February 2014

Wimsatt, W. C., ‘Generative Entrenchment and the Developmental Approach to Evolutionary Processes’ (pp. 219-37).

Introduced by Andrew Buskell

 

18 February 2014

Thelen, E. and Smith, L. B. (2006) 'Dynamic Systems Theory', in W. Damon and R. M. Lerner (eds), Handbook of Child Psychology, Volume 1: Theoretical Models of Human Development, Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley, pp. 258-312.

Introduced by Riana Betzler

 

25 February 2014

Sterelny, K., ‘Niche Construction, Developmental Systems, and the Extended Replicator’ (pp. 333-49).

Introduced by Dave Neale

 

4 March 2014

Taylor, P., ‘Distributed Agency within Intersecting Ecological, Social, and Scientific Processes’ (pp. 313-32).

Introduced by Adrian Boutel

 

11 March 2014

Godfrey-Smith, P., ‘On the Status and Explanatory Structure of Developmental Systems Theory’ (pp. 283-97).

Introduced by Chris Clarke


 

Michaelmas Term 2013

Meetings take place on Tuesdays 1-2pm, in Seminar Room 1, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Free School Lane, CB2 3RH.

 

15 October 2013

Defining Religion in Anthropology I

Eller, J. (2007) 'Studying religion anthropologically: Definitions and theories', in his Introducing the Anthropology of Religion, London: Routledge, pp. 1-28.

Introduced by Adrian Boutel

 

22 October 2013

Defining Religion in Anthropology II

Asad, T. (1982) Excerpt from 'The Construction of Religion as an anthropological category', Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam, Baltimore: John Hopkins, pp. 27-54

and

McCutcheon, R. T. (2012) 'More than a shapeless beast: Lumbering through the academy', from his Critics Not Caretakers: Redescribing the Public Study of Religion, Albany, New York: SUNY Press, Chapter 1.

Introduced by Tim Lewens

 

29 October 2013

Religious Symbols I: Structural Functionalism

Evans-Pritchard, E. E. (1956) Excerpt from 'The problem of symbols', in his Nuer Religion, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

and

Malinowski, B. (1954) Excerpt from 'Myth in primitive psychology', in his Magic Science and Other Essays, Doubleday Anchor, pp. 100-26.

Introduced by Christina Toren

 

5 November 2013

Religious Symbols II: Geertz and Hermeneutics

Hamilton, M. (2001) 'Religion and meaning' and 'Secularization',  in his The Sociology of Religion, London: Routledge, pp. 177-214

Introduced by Matthew Drage

 

12 November 2013

Interpreting Religious Behaviour

Winch, P. (1964) 'Understanding a primitive society', American Philosophical Quarterly, 1, pp. 307-324

Introduced by Zina Ward

 

19 November 2013

Interpreting Irrational Behaviour

Risjord, M. (2000) Woodcutters and Witchcraft: Rationality and Interpretive Change in the Social Sciences, Albany, New York: SUNY Press, Chapter 6.

Introduced by Chris Clarke

 

26 November 2013

Cognitive Approaches to Religion I

Boyer, P. (2001) Excerpt from  'What are the origins?', in his Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religion, Basic Books, pp. 1-51.

Introduced by Andrew Buskell

 

3 December 2013

Cognitive Approaches to Religion II

Lawson,  E. T. and McCauley, R. N. (1990) 'Connecting the cognitive and the cultural'  in their Rethinking Religion : Connecting Cognition and Culture, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 170-84.

Introduced by Riana Betzler


 

Easter Term 2013

Meetings take place on Wednesdays 11-12pm, in Seminar Room 1, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Free School Lane, CB2 3RH.

 

1 May 2013

Hull, D. (1986) ‘On Human Nature’, PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association, pp. 3-13

(Also in Stephen M. Downes and Edouard Machery (2013) Arguing About Human Nature: Contemporary Debates, Oxford: Routledge.)

 

8 May 2013

Geertz, C. (1973) ‘The Impact of the Concept of Culture on the Concept of Man’, in his The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays, New York: Basic Books.

 

15 May 2013

Machery, E. (2008) ‘A Plea for Human Nature’, Philosophical Psychology, 21, pp. 321-329

(Also in Stephen M. Downes and Edouard Machery (2013) Arguing About Human Nature: Contemporary Debates, Oxford: Routledge.)

 

22 May 2013

Ramsey, G. (2013) ‘Human Nature in a Post-Essentialist World’, in Stephen M. Downes and Edouard Machery (eds) Arguing About Human Nature: Contemporary Debates, Oxford: Routledge.

 

29 May 2013

Henrich, J., Heine, S. J. and Norenzayan, A. (2010) ‘The Weirdest People in the World’, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33, pp. 61-83.

(Also in Stephen M. Downes and Edouard Machery (2013) Arguing About Human Nature: Contemporary Debates, Oxford: Routledge.)

 

5 June 2013

Responses to ‘The Weirdest People in the World’ (2010), Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33, pp. 84-135.

 

12 June 2013

No reading group this week

 

19 June 2013

 

Strathern, M. (1980) ‘No Nature, No Culture: The Hagen Case’, in C. P. MacCormack, M. Strathern (eds) Nature, Culture and Gender, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 174-222.

 

26 June 2013

Bloch, M. (2012) Anthropology and the Cognitive Challenge, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Chapter 4.


 

Lent Term 2013

Meetings take place on Fridays, 2-3pm, in Seminar Room 1, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Free School Lane, CB2 3RH.

Please contact emh57@cam.ac.uk if you have any difficulty locating the reading material.

 

18 January 2013: Culture Naturalized?

Dan Sperber (1996) 'How To Be a True Materialist in Anthropology' in his Explaining Culture, pp. 9-31.

Introduced by Chris Clarke.

 

25 January 2013: Culture as an Organic Whole?

Bronislaw Malinowski (1922) 'Introduction' in his Argonauts of the Western Pacific, pp. 1-20

and

Mark Risjord (2007) Sections 1-3, 'Ethnography and Culture' in Stephen Turner and Mark Risjord (eds) Philosophy of Anthropology and Sociology, pp. 399-410.

Introduced by Tim Lewens.

 

1 February 2013: Actors' vs Analysts' Categories
Marvin Harris (1976) 'History and Significance of the Emic/Etic Distinction', Annual Review of Anthropology, 5, pp. 329-50

and

Mark Risjord (2007) Section 4, 'Ethnography and Culture' in Stephen Turner and Mark Risjord (eds) Philosophy of Anthropology and Sociology, pp. 410-3.

Introduced by Chris Clarke.

 

8 February 2013: Culture as a Text?

Clifford Geertz (1973) 'Thick Description', in his The Interpretation of Culture, pp. 1-32

and

Mark Risjord (2007) Section 5, 'Ethnography and Culture' in Stephen Turner and Mark Risjord (eds) Philosophy of Anthropology and Sociology, pp. 413-6.

Introduced by Riana Betzler.

 

15 February 2013: Contemporary Culture

Marilyn Strathern (1995) The Relation: Issues in Complexity and Scale.

Introduced by Adrian Boutel.

 

22 February 2013: Culture Naturalized or Relativized?

Alex Mesoudi (2011) 'A Cultural Species' in his Cultural Evolution: How Darwinian Theory Can Explain Human Culture, pp. 1-24

and

Mark Risjord (2007) Section 6, 'Ethnography and Culture' in Stephen Turner and Mark Risjord (eds) Philosophy of Anthropology and Sociology, pp. 416-21.

Introduced by Andrew Buskell.

 

1 March 2013: Culture Evolution Biology

Alex Mesoudi (2011) 'Evolutionary Ethnography: Cultural Evolution in the Field' in his Cultural Evolution: How Darwinian Theory Can Explain Human Culture, pp. 161-76

and

Franz Boas (1948) 'The Aims of Anthropological Research' in his Race, Language and Culture, pp. 243-259.

Introduced by Andrew Buskell.

 

8 March 2013: Culture and Theory

Patrick Baert (2006a) 'Social Theory and the Social Sciences' in G. Delanty (ed.) Handbook of Contemporary European Social Theory, pp. 14-24

and

Patrick Baert (2006a) 'The Relationship between Social Theory and Empirical Research', The International Journal of the Humanities, 3, pp. 265-76.

Introduced by Adrian Boutel.


 

Michaelmas Term 2012

This term we will be reading a series of articles drawn from the recent special issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B (2012: 367) entitled ‘New Thinking: The Evolution of Human Cognition’, edited by Cecilia Heyes and Uta Frith.

 

This new group is supported by Tim Lewens’s SCINAT ERC Grant. All are welcome, including those sceptical of the cultural evolutionary project. In addition to philosophers and historians of science we also hope to attract researchers from the biological sciences, psychology and all branches of archaeology and anthropology. The papers can all be accessed online from http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/367/1599.toc.

 

Week 1

Cecilia Heyes: “New thinking: the evolution of human cognition”, Fridays 2-3pm, HPS Lodge

 

Week 2

Peter Godfrey-Smith: “Darwinism and cultural change”, Friday 2-3pm, Seminar Room 1, HPS

 

Week 3

Cecilia Heyes “Grist and mills: On the cultural origins of cultural learning”, Friday 1-2pm, Seminar Room 2, HPS

 

Week 4

Kim Sterelny “Language, gesture, skill: The co-evolutionary foundations of language”, Friday 2-3pm, HPS Lodge

 

Week 5

Daphna Buchsbaum, Sophie Bridgers, Deena Skolnick Weisberg, and Alison Gopnik “The power of possibility: Causal learning, counterfactual reasoning, and pretend play”, Friday 2-3pm, HPS Lodge

 

Week 6

Nicholas Shea “New thinking, innateness, and inherited representation”, Friday 2-3pm, HPS Lodge

 

Week 7

Chris D. Frith “The role of metacognition in human social interactions”, Friday 2-3pm, HPS Lodge

 

Week 8

Nikolaus Robalino and Arthur Robson “The economic approach to ‘theory of mind’”, Friday 2-3pm, HPS Lodge