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McLoone Brian | Fellow Visitor
2014-02-17 - 2014-07-15 | Research area: Cognition and Sociality
Conceptual Issues Concerning the Ontogeny and Evolution of Human Collaboration
A large portion of human social life is founded upon our ability to collaborate with others. We serve on panels with others; we build houses together; we play team sports. Often, such behaviors are described as instances of shared intentionality (e.g., Searle 1995). Here, I will refer to this sort of activity simply as collaboration. The aim of my project is to write and publish two papers on human collaboration. The first paper will apply philosophical work on the concept of innateness to the issue of whether a child’s capacity to collaborate is innate. A number of philosophers of biology and cognitive science have attempted to explicate what innateness means, and in the process they have moved past a naive distinction between innate and acquired characteristics. Indeed, they have shown there are numerous concepts of innateness (e.g., Samuels 2004; Ariew 2006; Griffiths and Machery 2008). Nevertheless, these important theoretical developments have yet to be applied to an analysis of whether human collaboration is innate. I plan to articulate the different senses of innateness and then discuss whether work in developmental psychology supports the claim that any of those senses of the concept describes the ontogeny of human collaboration. The second paper will explore whether it is appropriate to describe a pair of stag hunters as undergoing a process of group selection. The stag hunt game has been used to describe the payoff-structure of collaboration (Skyrms 2004). Joint cooperation in a stag hunt yields the highest payoff for both the individual and the group. So it is initially plasubile that a stag hunting strategy will evolve in a population because of both individual-level and group-level selection (Huttegger and Smead 2011). But coming to a conclusion on this issue involves working through a number of thorny conceptual issues, including concerns about parsimony, explanatory adequacy, and modeling trade-offs.