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Delusions are (probably) not a natural kind: What Samuels missed about realization, Bryan Miller
In “Delusions as a natural kind” Richard Samuels argues contrary to theorists such as Peter Zachar (2000) and Nassir Ghaemi (2004) that delusions probably do constitute a natural kind. Samuels supports his claim, the natural kind thesis (hereafter, NK thesis), by showing that several objections to it are mistaken. One of the strongest objections that Samuels must face is the heterogeneity objection, the claim that the NK thesis is false because delusions are realized by a number of heterogeneous neural and/or cognitive states. Samuels’ response to this objection notes that this only shows that delusions are multiply realizable and that this fact is consistent with and supportive of the NK thesis. In this paper, I argue that Samuels’ response to the heterogeneity objections fails to support the NK thesis insofar as it employs a form of realization that does not give rise to natural kinds. I conclude by remarking on how the failure to secure the natural kind status of delusions might be problematic for a special case of delusions—namely, religious delusions.
Dworkin on the Moral Psychology of Abortion, Jonathon Hricko
In his book Life’s Dominion, Ronald Dworkin argues that, though defenders of the pro-life position may say that they object to abortion because they believe that it violates the rights and interests of the fetus, they actually object to it because they believe that it violates the intrinsic value of the fetus. Dworkin attempts to reach this conclusion by arguing that the former belief is incoherent. I will draw an analogy between the abortion debate and the conjunction fallacy in order to argue that Dworkin cannot reach his conclusion by means of the arguments he gives. The fact that a belief is incoherent is no reason to conclude that people do not hold that belief. Just as the probability rankings that people assign to a set of statements is an empirical issue, so is what people think about abortion, and so an empirical investigation is necessary to determine whether Dworkin’s conclusion is correct.
Religion, Rationality, and Altruism, John Waterman
Religion is puzzling from an evolutionary perspective. Religious ritual and belief have clear adaptive costs in time and effort, but they don't have clear compensating benefits. By any right, natural selection should have eliminated them long ago. Instead we find religion is a human universal. How should we explain this? An age old, if now unpopular, view explains that religion’s worth derives from promoting morality. Costly Signaling Theory, an adaptationist approach gaining currency among cognitive scientists of religion, updates this view. It argues religious beliefs and rituals are adaptations integral to the evolution of human altruism. The theory claims the adaptive benefits of religion accrue by mitigating the threat narrow self-interest poses to cooperative behavior. In this essay I argue that Costly Signaling Theory fails as an explanation of the evolution of cooperation in populations with unrelated individuals. Using the framework of evolutionary game theory, I show that religious belief and religious ritual are neither necessary nor sufficient for eliminating the underlying adaptive instability of cooperative behavior. I conclude with a discussion of the evolutionary relationship between religion and morality, and by considering a pending question for both adaptationist and spandrelist theories of religious cognition.
Between Adaptations and Spandrels: Cognitive science and evolutionary psychology of religion, Derek Leben
Many psychologists, anthropologists, and biologists currently attempt to explain religion as not only a biological-cognitive product, but as an evolutionary adaptation. This paper will discuss the adaptationist argument as well as the supposed alternative, that religion is a useless ‘by-product’ of other cognitive systems (‘spandrelism’). It will be argued that the adaptationist argument is not effective, due to a failure to distinguish beneficial uses from ‘proper’ evolutionary functions, as well as a much wider variety of evolutionary causes than simply an adaptation or spandrel (kluge, exaptation, co-opted mechanism). Other cases such as language and moral appraisal will also be considered for comparison.