Cognitive novelties, informational form, and structural-causal explanations


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Authors
Abstract

Abstract: Recent work has established a framework for explaining the origin of cognitive novelties—qualitatively distinct cognitive traits—in human beings. This niche construction approach argues that humans engineer epistemic environments in ways that facilitate the ontogenetic and phylogenetic development of such novelties. I here argue that attention to the organized relations between content-carrying informational vehicles, or informational form, is key to a valuable explanatory strategy within this project, what I call structural-causal explanations. Drawing on recent work from Cecilia Heyes, and developing a case study around a novel mathematical capacity, I demonstrate how structural-causal explanations can contribute to the niche construction approach by underwriting the application of explanatory tools and generating new empirical targets.

Description
Keywords
Article, Cognitive evolution, Cultural evolution, Novelties, Explanation
Journal Title
Synthese
Conference Name
Journal ISSN
0039-7857
1573-0964
Volume Title
198
Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Sponsorship
John Templeton Foundation (60501)
Isaac Newton Trust (GB) (G101655)
Leverhulme Trust (RG95309)