Analyse & Kritik

Journal of Philosophy and Social Theory


"Jonathan Birch"

Titel: The Skilful Origins of Human Normative Cognition
Autor: Jonathan Birch
Seite: 191–201

I briefly present and motivate a ‘skill hypothesis’ regarding the evolution of human normative cognition. On this hypothesis, the capacity to internally represent action-guiding norms evolved as a solution to the distinctive problems of standardizing, learning and teaching complex motor skills and craft skills, especially skills related to toolmaking. We have an evolved cognitive architecture for internalizing norms of technique, which was then co-opted for a rich array of social functions. There was a gradual expansion of the normative domain, with ritual playing an important role in bridging the gap between concrete, enacted norms and general, abstract norms, such as kinship norms. I conclude by stating nine predictions arising from the skill hypothesis.

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Titel: Refining the Skill Hypothesis: Replies to Andrews/Westra, Tomasello, Sterelny, and Railton
Autor: Jonathan Birch
Seite: 253-260

I reflect on the commentaries on my ‘skill hypothesis’ from Andrews/ Westra, Tomasello, Sterelny, and Railton. I discuss the difference between normative cognition and the broader category of action-guiding representation, and I reflect on the relationship between joint intentionality and normative cognition. I then consider Sterelny and Railton’s variants on the skill hypothesis, which highlight some important areas where future evidence could help us refine the account: the relative importance of on-the-fly skill execution vs. longer-term strategizing, the relative importance of toolmaking vs. collaborative foraging, and the question of whether norms are encoded in control models themselves or in the goals and ideals that our control models help us pursue.

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Titel: Normative Guidance, Evaluative Guidance, and Skill
Autor: Peter Railton
Seite: 235-252

At least since Aristotle, practical skill has been thought to be a possible model for individual ethical development and action. Jonathan Birch’s ambitious proposal is that practical skill and tool-use might also have played a central role in the historical emergence and evolution of our very capacity for normative guidance. Birch argues that human acquisition of motor skill, for example in making and using tools, involves formation of an internal standard of correct performance, which serves as a basis for normative guidance in skilled thought and action, and in the social transfer of skills. I suggest that evaluative modeling, guidance, and learning play a more basic role in motor skill than standards of correctness as such—indeed, such standards can provide effective normative guidance thanks to being embedded within evaluative modeling and guidance. This picture better fits the evidence Birch cites of the flexibility, adaptability, and creativity of skills, and can support a generalized version of Birch’s ‘skill hypothesis’.

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