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Re: [evol-psych] Re: Basics Explained: What is Evolutionary Psychology

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  • Jay R. Feierman
    Timo: I carefully read your posting. You define many words much differently than their usual usage, which I understand is necessary for you to do. However, it
    Message 1 of 12 , Jan 3, 2005
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      Timo:
       
      I carefully read your posting. You define many words much differently than their usual usage, which I understand is necessary for you to do. However, it is like reading a foreign language for me in that I have to think about words separately and what they mean to you. The issue is perspective. From an outside observer's point of view there may be advantages in looking at entire systems in which a living organism is but one component. That perspective has to be weighed with the advantages of looking at the organism as a single system. Ecologists for example look at the big picture of the organisms-environment as a single system. The questions you ask should determine the perspective you take. Also, what you say sounds something like chaos theory to me but I don't know enough about that to comment intelligently.
       
      Your following statement is very provocative: "A causal relation may exist only between reorganizational processes comprising the whole system, not between the whole system and one of its parts, because the part is already included in the whole system. The part cannot be in a causal relation to itself."  However, when we consider the individual a whole system, we assume that parts of the individual can cause other parts to change, such as the brain causing the muscles to move. There also are spontaneous movements of individuals, which can be seen shortly after birth, that do not depend on outside stimuli.
       
      I spent a number of years studying Citallus lateralis, the golden mantled ground squirrel. It would be thought that their physiology and neurochemistry and its resultant behavior could only be understood in terms of their relationship to their alpine environment, where they hibernate in the winter under the snowpack each year. Yet, when one traps squirrels and puts them in cages in a constant temperature and constant light environment in the laboratory for several years, they still go through the same circannual cycles of changes in body weight, motor activity and hibernation, except that the circannual cycles are not entrained exactly to the 365 day year but rather free run at circa-circannual periods, similar to the circa-circadian rhythms seen in someone in an underground bunker in a chronobiology experiment. So that shows me that individuals as environment-sensitive as alpine ground squirrels can actually be studied as complete systems in onto themselves in a laboratory. Again, the question is, what is the advantage of looking at individuals and their environment as one system, if one is not an ecologist? That does not mean that the individual is not adapted to his or her environment or that an understanding of the adaptations in the individual can not also tell one something about the features of the environment to which the individual is adapted.
       
      You should try your idea of the organism/environment being one system and see where it leads. I would be interested in seeing your results. It looks like you have put a lot of thought into this already.
       
      Regards,
      Jay R. Feierman
       
       
      ----- Original Message -----
      Sent: Monday, January 03, 2005 4:29 AM
      Subject: RE: [evol-psych] Re: Basics Explained: What is Evolutionary Psychology

      Dear Dr. Feierman,

      What do you think about the attempt for definitions below?

       

      “Thus, mental activity [i.e. mind] is activity (reorganization) of the whole organism-environment system. It is not realized in the brain or in some other separate parts of the system (e.g. body as a whole), but by the organism-environment system as a whole. This means, however, that mental activity may exist only if there are neural elements, although it cannot be reduced to their activity. In accordance with early behaviorists (e.g. Watson) one could equate mental activity with behavior, but then the concept of behavior should be extended to include any reorganizational processes in the organism-environment system. Behavior, from this point of view, would not be that which can be observed when organisms act, but the observable changes would be only indicators of the real organizational processes directed towards the result of action. As Koffka (1935) already quite correctly stated, all mental activity is dynamic organization and reorganization; however, not only of the brain or the organism as Koffka thought, but of the whole organism-environment system.

       

      If we apply the traditional terminology, then we could say that those reorganizational processes of the organism-environment system that we may see as movements are called behavior, and those processes which are not readily detected, mental activity. Such a use of these concepts is, however, misleading, because in both cases the question is of the reorganization of the whole system. Behavior is included in mental activity if the latter is conceived as activity of the whole organism-environment system. Consequently, there is no causal relation between mental activity and behavior; thought does not cause movements or fear escape. A causal relation may exist only between reorganizational processes comprising the whole system, not between the whole system and one of its parts, because the part is already included in the whole system. The part cannot be in a causal relation to itself.

       

      From the conception of mental activity as related to the whole organism-environment system, it follows that all traditional psychological concepts, such as perception, memory, or emotion, for example, are not separate "functions", but aspects of one and the same organism-environment system. Thus, in the frame of the organism-environment theory we may tentatively formulate new definitions for some traditional psychological concepts e.g. in the following way:

       

      "Perception" is the process of reorganization and inclusion of significant environmental parts into systemic organization in the achievement of results of behavior. A percept of an event or thing is a result of preceding organization, not a response to a stimulus.

       

      "Memory" is the structure of the whole system; memory is the basic requisite for any action and result. Without memory no action is possible, because the structure and action go always together.

       

      "Learning" is the process of widening and differentiation of the system.

       

      "Emotions" denote special organizational aspects related to the achievement of results: negative emotions refer to disorganization related to failure in this achievement of the result, and positive emotions to the integration of action after successful achievement of the result. As the reorganization of the system is a continuous process, emotions are always present and there is no action without emotions.

       

      Already at the beginning of the development of mental activity we may observe all such basic forms of reorganization, typical also of more developed organisms. We may observe them in a rudimentary form in any, even in the most simple organism-environment system, although without neurons the possibilities of realizing these forms of organization are very limited. The main point here, however, is that mental activity does not consist of some "simple" functions like sensations which then developed into more complicated functions, which would then combine to "higher" functions, such as perceptions. Thus, not even in its simplest forms does mental activity consist of simple reactions to stimuli ("sensibility"; cf. Leontjev, 1975) or "automatic" responses to environmental "stimuli".

       

      Mental activity appeared with the appearance of life or, to be more exact, some premental forms appeared with the first single cell and multicellular organisms. However, the appearance of mental activity as structured action and action results was possible only with the advent of neurons. This also explains why it is so seductive to regard the brain as the locus of mental activity (see Introduction).”

      (from http://wwwedu.oulu.fi/homepage/tjarvile/art4.htm)

       

      Best regards,

      ===========================================

      Timo Jarvilehto, PhD

      Professor of Psychology

      Kajaani University Consortium

      PB 51

      87101 Kajaani , Finland

      Homepage: http://cc.oulu.fi/~tjarvile/indexe.htm

      Email: timo.jarvilehto@...

      Gsm 040-5563794

       

       

      From: Jay R. Feierman [mailto:jfeierman@...]
      Sent: 3. tammikuuta 2005 1:42
      To: roger.d.masters@...
      Cc: evol psychol
      Subject: Re: [evol-psych] Re: Basics Explained: What is Evolutionary Psychology

       

      Roger D. Master's question to Mike Tintner? Just what do you mean by "mind"?  Does it include non-conscious and preconscious responses that are not controlled by (and often control) "intentionality"?  Does it include innate responses (both at the level of perception and of motor behavior)? 

       

      Jay R. Feierman: On page 8 in the Introduction to Barkow, Cosmides and Tooby's edited, The Adapted Mind, it states, "In cognitive psychology, the term mind is used to refer to an information-processing description of the functioning of the brain" (p. 8). When I read that definition, it didn't quite fit with my pre-conceived concept of the term, since there was a lot of information that the brain processed that had to do with simple motor functioning, such as walking or keeping ones balance, that neurologists for example would not attribute to mental function or to the mind, although they would attribute it to brain function. The same chapter says, "The study of cognition is the study of how humans and other animals process information" (p. 65). Does that imply that all the information processed by the brain falls within the purview of cognitive psychology, including the information that is used to walk, not fall down and avoid objects in one's path? I see in a later posting that Mike Tintner's clarified that he meant all information processing function of the brain in his definition of the mind.

       

      Ethology doesn't use the term or concept of mind. Neuroethologists don't use the term, mind, but they do use the term the brain. In Tooby and Cosmides's first chapter in The Adapted Mind, they sometimes use the term "brain/mind," which they say contains psychological adaptations. Yet, from my perspective, if adaptations of any kind are functions, functions are an attributed property of matter that do not exist in the matter itself. So the brain does not really contain psychological adaptations. However, the mind, if defined as the information processing function of the brain, could be said have various psychological adaptations attributed to it. I don't think anyone is going to argue that a function can not be categorized into subunits. But it is an interpretation or an assumption and not an observation to call all such subunits of functions adaptations.

       

      Just for historical interest I looked up the definition of the word "mind" in Noyes and Kolb's Modern Clinical Psychiatry, W.B. Saunders Company, 1963, which was the most popular American textbook of psychiatry in its day. It says on page 4, " . . . It will be noted that in the definition of psychiatry there was no mention of the word 'mind.' There need not be, however, any objection to the use of the word provided it is employed as a collective designation for certain functional activities of the organism, particularly those of the organism as an individual personality . . . The 'mind,' therefore, is merely one aspect -- the psychological aspect -- of biological functioning of the organism and not a metaphysical entity having an existence parallel to the body." That definition is close to "the information processing function of the brain."

       

      In contrast to this most popular American textbook of psychiatry cited above, the most popular British textbooks of psychiatry in the same period (which were Slater and Roth's Clinical Psychiatry, Bailliere, Tindall and Cassell, 1969 and Henderson and Gillespie's Texbook of Psychiatry, revised by Ivor R.C. Batchelor, 10th edition, Oxford University Press, 1969) do not even have the word, "mind" in the index and don't use the word at all. Going back even further, in my translated version of the very influential German text, Eugen Bleuler's Textbook of Psychiatry, The Macmillan Company [English translation], 1936, the word "mind" also does not appear in the index or in the text. So historically British and continental psychiatry appear to have ignored the concept of the mind and American psychiatry at least mentioned it in the introduction of a popular textbook. Today, even American psychiatry seems to be "mindless," as the word is hardly used at all. In psychology, the concept of mind appears to have emerged during the era of depth psychology, died in the era of behaviorism and learning theory and is now going through a resurrection with a new and refined definition. 

       

      If the "mind" is going to be the keystone of evolutionary psychology, then it is essential that the mind be defined in such a way that all evolutionary psychologists agree, otherwise, communication is hampered. Defining the mind as the information processing function of the brain is the cognitive psychology definition. Does evolutionary psychology have another definition? Maybe people on the list can suggest definitions, but they should be concise, simple and operational.

       

      Regards,

      Jay R. Feierman

       

       

       

      ----- Original Message -----

      Sent: Sunday, January 02, 2005 7:51 AM

      Subject: Re: [evol-psych] Re: Basics Explained: What is Evolutionary Psychology

       

      >
      >
      > Mike Tintner:
      >
      > Your posting (copied below) leads me to pose a question for you that is at the center of the issues that have given rise to Evolutionary Psychology but are not always addressed.   While I pose this question as if it is personally focused on YOU (in part because i disagree with some of your formulations), the question and your answer will concern everyone on the EP list. 
      >
      > Just what do you mean by "mind"?  Does it include non-conscious and preconscious responses that are not controlled by (and often control) "intentionality"?  Does it include innate responses (both at the level of perception and of motor behavior)?    And above all, do you exclude from Evolutionary Psychology and its definition of "mind" all  "functional adaptations" that include thoughts and behaviors that are means to "natural" ends (or what Aristotle called "teleology")?   Or are you merely arguing that some human behavior is not so constrained?  (The adaptive characteristics of human thought and behavior include, by the way, the cooperative social behavior and thinking embedded in language, which is most emphatically NOT a trait of the individual mind acting in isolation.  Are you merely saying that culture shapes human behavior in ways not always constrained by species specific adaptations?)
      >
      > I ask because your statements seem to echo the views of human nature found in modern political philosophers in the tradition of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau.   For example, you refer to human behaviors as "merely different uses of a general-purpose machine which is capable of an infinite variety of behaviour, and only goes through significant biological adaptations/changes rarely."   As a specialist in political philosophy, I have concluded that your statement and the similar assumptions of these moderns are contradicted by contemporary evolutionary biology and cognitive neuroscience whereas the broad framework of Aristotelian thought (though of course not all of its details ) is more accurate.   On this ground,  the word "infinite" In the sentence just quoted is simply false.    
      >
      > To make this more concrete, your posting entails a highly individualist view of human nature which arose only in Western European civilization and, as I'm prepared to argue on textual grounds, can be traced to the theological principles of ancient Hebrew and early Christian thought after its radical secularization in the Renaissance.   My point is that the contemporary scientific evidence indicates that Aristotle was simply correct to describe humans as the "political animal."  From that perspective, the game theoretical approach you cite with favor only describes a circumscribed set of actions and contexts, and suffers from inaccuracies similar to those found in the individualistic view of "man" and the "mind" underlying the conceptions of the "state of nature" in Hobbes' LEVIATHAN, Locke's SECOND TREATISE, or Rousseau's SECOND DISCOURSE.
      >
      >            roger masters, Dartmouth College
      >
      >
      > -- You wrote:
      > RKS wrote:

      > Thus we see that the common consensus is that Evolutionary Psychology
      > is primarily an approach to psychology, especially to solving the
      > general behaviour of modern humans, the nature of their minds, their
      > subjective experience, and social systems and culture.
      >
      > -----------------------------------

      > This certainly seems to be the consensus, but I don't think it is what Evolutionary Psychology ought to be. It should be the study of the evolution of the mind and mind-controlled behaviour through the species - all the species, humans included.

      > EP should, for example, be studying the general evolution of the conscious mind, intelligence, emotions, and conscience from their earliest beginnings. That might start with studying how problem-solving evolved from, say,  the paramoecium 'deciding'  - almost randomly it would seem - when to take a new direction in search of new liquids, to the worm deciding what new material it should stuff its burrow with. ( Darwin attributed some intelligence to the worm:

      > it is far more surprising that they [worms] should apparently exhibit some degrees of intelligence instead of a mere blind instinctive impulse, in their manner of plugging up the mouths of their burrows. They act in nearly the same manner as would a man, who had to close a cylindrical tube with different kinds of leaves, petioles, triangles of paper, for they commonly seize such objects by their pointed ends.
      > The Formation of Vegetable Mould]
      >
      > EP should also be studying how the activities of all living creatures have evolved. There is enormous scope for applying common models to all these activities, like Games Theory - as Herb Gintis has pointed out here and elsewhere -  in concert with evolutionary biology.
      >
      > All of this should certainly lead up to the evolution of the human mind and behaviour, and specifically human features like human language. But there is far too much emphasis both in this group and EP generally, it seems to me, on explaining the "general behaviour of MODERN humans."  The result is a wild tendency to label all kinds of human behaviour as biological adaptations or maladaptations, when probably they are no such thing - merely different uses of a general-purpose machine which is capable of an infinite variety of behaviour, and only goes through significant biological adaptations/changes rarely.
      >
      > EP will only make a lasting mark on the scientific landscape when it can explain some of the stages of evolution of the mind, rather than trying - in general unsatisfactorily -  to explain modern behaviour..
      >
      > [That is not to say that I don't enjoy many if not most of the threads here - only that I wouldn't consider them all good EP].
      >

      >

      >

      >
      >
      > ---------------------------------
      > ALL-NEW Yahoo! Messenger - all new features - even more fun! 
      > --- end of quote ---
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >

      > Yahoo! Groups Links
      >
      > <*> To visit your group on the web, go to:
      >    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/evolutionary-psychology/
      >
      > <*> To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
      >    evolutionary-psychology-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
      >
      > <*> Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to:
      >    http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/

      >
      >
      >
      >

    • Timo Järvilehto
      Thank you, Jay, for the considerate comment. You asked, what is the advantage of looking at individuals and their environment as one system, if one is not an
      Message 2 of 12 , Jan 4, 2005
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        Thank you, Jay, for the considerate comment. You asked, what is the advantage of looking at individuals and their environment as one system, if one is not an ecologist. I am not an ecologist, but a neuroscientist, and my main concern, since I started brain research in 60’s, has been the mind-brain problem --- and this is where I have ended up. Actually, the gist of the organism-environment approach is not ecological, but it is rather an attempt to clarify some conceptual problems inherent in the traditional psychology that treats environment as a separate source of stimuli, and the organism as a responsive object copying environmental effects in the form of representations or in some other kinds of information processing. In such a theory the ontological status of these representations or informational processes has been always unclear. In fact, when starting with the two systems approach (i.e. separation of the organism and environment) there are only two logical possibilities: either a special ontological status is ascribed to the psychological processes, or they are simply identified with the neural processes. The latter possibility is the usual of interpretation in evolutionary psychology or neuroscience. Thus, most research uses stimulus-response methods and correlates sophisticated recordings with mental functions (operationally defined as different tasks), and locates these functions in the recording sites as some sort of modules if a positive correlation is found. Thus, psychology is factually eliminated --- and I must say I do sometimes wonder where one can find any psychological theories in evolutionary psychology, especially when the mind is defined just as a set of modules in the brain.

         

        As I tried to indicate, the change from a two systems theory to the organism-environment theory leads to reformulation of research problems and to new kinds of definitions of psychological concepts, as the mind can no more be simply identified with some set of neural modules in the brain. Furthermore, the recordings from the brain should on this basis be seen only as one indicator of the organization of a system which is neither physical nor biological, but precisely psychological. From this it follows that neurophysiology is restored to its proper place as a part of biology; its task is the study of neurons as living units, and constituents of the organism-environment system, not as computer chips or “minds“ accomplishing psychological functions. The task of psychology then, is the study of dynamics of the results achieved by whole organism-environment systems. It is the result of action (or behavior if you wish) that is a central concept in determining the architecture of the organism-environment system. It is, of course, clear that results are possible only if all necessary physiological, chemical, and physical factors are present, and also in psychology the study of these factors is important, because they are not investigated in the respective sciences from the point of view of specific results. However, such a study does not mean reduction of psychological processes to their constituents or to the respective disciplines, because different constellations of constituents may lead to similar results, or similar constituents may subserve different results depending on the context of action. Thus, the meaning and content of mind is not causally determined by physiological, chemical, or physical factors, but by the mutual relation of the results achieved by the organism-environment systems in the given community. I think evolutionary psychology could be quite useful in this kind of study if it only is understood in a broader context,  and if it can step out from traditional psychological strait-jackets.

         

        With best regards,

        Timo

         

        ===========================================

        Timo Jarvilehto, PhD

        Professor of Psychology

        Kajaani University Consortium

        PB 51

        87101 Kajaani , Finland

        Homepage: http://cc.oulu.fi/~tjarvile/indexe.htm

        Email: timo.jarvilehto@...

        Gsm 040-5563794


        From: Jay R. Feierman [mailto:jfeierman@...]
        Sent: 3. tammikuuta 2005 20:46
        To: Timo Järvilehto
        Cc: evol psychol
        Subject: Re: [evol-psych] Re: Basics Explained: What is Evolutionary Psychology

         

        Timo:

         

        I carefully read your posting. You define many words much differently than their usual usage, which I understand is necessary for you to do. However, it is like reading a foreign language for me in that I have to think about words separately and what they mean to you. The issue is perspective. From an outside observer's point of view there may be advantages in looking at entire systems in which a living organism is but one component. That perspective has to be weighed with the advantages of looking at the organism as a single system. Ecologists for example look at the big picture of the organisms-environment as a single system. The questions you ask should determine the perspective you take. Also, what you say sounds something like chaos theory to me but I don't know enough about that to comment intelligently.

         

        Your following statement is very provocative: "A causal relation may exist only between reorganizational processes comprising the whole system, not between the whole system and one of its parts, because the part is already included in the whole system. The part cannot be in a causal relation to itself."  However, when we consider the individual a whole system, we assume that parts of the individual can cause other parts to change, such as the brain causing the muscles to move. There also are spontaneous movements of individuals, which can be seen shortly after birth, that do not depend on outside stimuli.

         

        I spent a number of years studying Citallus lateralis, the golden mantled ground squirrel. It would be thought that their physiology and neurochemistry and its resultant behavior could only be understood in terms of their relationship to their alpine environment, where they hibernate in the winter under the snowpack each year. Yet, when one traps squirrels and puts them in cages in a constant temperature and constant light environment in the laboratory for several years, they still go through the same circannual cycles of changes in body weight, motor activity and hibernation, except that the circannual cycles are not entrained exactly to the 365 day year but rather free run at circa-circannual periods, similar to the circa-circadian rhythms seen in someone in an underground bunker in a chronobiology experiment. So that shows me that individuals as environment-sensitive as alpine ground squirrels can actually be studied as complete systems in onto themselves in a laboratory. Again, the question is, what is the advantage of looking at individuals and their environment as one system, if one is not an ecologist? That does not mean that the individual is not adapted to his or her environment or that an understanding of the adaptations in the individual can not also tell one something about the features of the environment to which the individual is adapted.

         

        You should try your idea of the organism/environment being one system and see where it leads. I would be interested in seeing your results. It looks like you have put a lot of thought into this already.

         

        Regards,

        Jay R. Feierman

         

         

        ----- Original Message -----

        Sent: Monday, January 03, 2005 4:29 AM

        Subject: RE: [evol-psych] Re: Basics Explained: What is Evolutionary Psychology

         

        Dear Dr. Feierman,

        What do you think about the attempt for definitions below?

         

        “Thus, mental activity [i.e. mind] is activity (reorganization) of the whole organism-environment system. It is not realized in the brain or in some other separate parts of the system (e.g. body as a whole), but by the organism-environment system as a whole. This means, however, that mental activity may exist only if there are neural elements, although it cannot be reduced to their activity. In accordance with early behaviorists (e.g. Watson) one could equate mental activity with behavior, but then the concept of behavior should be extended to include any reorganizational processes in the organism-environment system. Behavior, from this point of view, would not be that which can be observed when organisms act, but the observable changes would be only indicators of the real organizational processes directed towards the result of action. As Koffka (1935) already quite correctly stated, all mental activity is dynamic organization and reorganization; however, not only of the brain or the organism as Koffka thought, but of the whole organism-environment system.

         

        If we apply the traditional terminology, then we could say that those reorganizational processes of the organism-environment system that we may see as movements are called behavior, and those processes which are not readily detected, mental activity. Such a use of these concepts is, however, misleading, because in both cases the question is of the reorganization of the whole system. Behavior is included in mental activity if the latter is conceived as activity of the whole organism-environment system. Consequently, there is no causal relation between mental activity and behavior; thought does not cause movements or fear escape. A causal relation may exist only between reorganizational processes comprising the whole system, not between the whole system and one of its parts, because the part is already included in the whole system. The part cannot be in a causal relation to itself.

         

        From the conception of mental activity as related to the whole organism-environment system, it follows that all traditional psychological concepts, such as perception, memory, or emotion, for example, are not separate "functions", but aspects of one and the same organism-environment system. Thus, in the frame of the organism-environment theory we may tentatively formulate new definitions for some traditional psychological concepts e.g. in the following way:

         

        "Perception" is the process of reorganization and inclusion of significant environmental parts into systemic organization in the achievement of results of behavior. A percept of an event or thing is a result of preceding organization, not a response to a stimulus.

         

        "Memory" is the structure of the whole system; memory is the basic requisite for any action and result. Without memory no action is possible, because the structure and action go always together.

         

        "Learning" is the process of widening and differentiation of the system.

         

        "Emotions" denote special organizational aspects related to the achievement of results: negative emotions refer to disorganization related to failure in this achievement of the result, and positive emotions to the integration of action after successful achievement of the result. As the reorganization of the system is a continuous process, emotions are always present and there is no action without emotions.

         

        Already at the beginning of the development of mental activity we may observe all such basic forms of reorganization, typical also of more developed organisms. We may observe them in a rudimentary form in any, even in the most simple organism-environment system, although without neurons the possibilities of realizing these forms of organization are very limited. The main point here, however, is that mental activity does not consist of some "simple" functions like sensations which then developed into more complicated functions, which would then combine to "higher" functions, such as perceptions. Thus, not even in its simplest forms does mental activity consist of simple reactions to stimuli ("sensibility"; cf. Leontjev, 1975) or "automatic" responses to environmental "stimuli".

         

        Mental activity appeared with the appearance of life or, to be more exact, some premental forms appeared with the first single cell and multicellular organisms. However, the appearance of mental activity as structured action and action results was possible only with the advent of neurons. This also explains why it is so seductive to regard the brain as the locus of mental activity (see Introduction).”

        (from http://wwwedu.oulu.fi/homepage/tjarvile/art4.htm)

         

        Best regards,

        ===========================================

        Timo Jarvilehto, PhD

        Professor of Psychology

        Kajaani University Consortium

        PB 51

        87101 Kajaani , Finland

        Homepage: http://cc.oulu.fi/~tjarvile/indexe.htm

        Email: timo.jarvilehto@...

        Gsm 040-5563794

         

         

        From: Jay R. Feierman [mailto:jfeierman@...]
        Sent: 3. tammikuuta 2005 1:42
        To: roger.d.masters@...
        Cc: evol psychol
        Subject: Re: [evol-psych] Re: Basics Explained: What is Evolutionary Psychology

         

        Roger D. Master's question to Mike Tintner? Just what do you mean by "mind"?  Does it include non-conscious and preconscious responses that are not controlled by (and often control) "intentionality"?  Does it include innate responses (both at the level of perception and of motor behavior)? 

         

        Jay R. Feierman: On page 8 in the Introduction to Barkow, Cosmides and Tooby's edited, The Adapted Mind, it states, "In cognitive psychology, the term mind is used to refer to an information-processing description of the functioning of the brain" (p. 8). When I read that definition, it didn't quite fit with my pre-conceived concept of the term, since there was a lot of information that the brain processed that had to do with simple motor functioning, such as walking or keeping ones balance, that neurologists for example would not attribute to mental function or to the mind, although they would attribute it to brain function. The same chapter says, "The study of cognition is the study of how humans and other animals process information" (p. 65). Does that imply that all the information processed by the brain falls within the purview of cognitive psychology, including the information that is used to walk, not fall down and avoid objects in one's path? I see in a later posting that Mike Tintner's clarified that he meant all information processing function of the brain in his definition of the mind.

         

        Ethology doesn't use the term or concept of mind. Neuroethologists don't use the term, mind, but they do use the term the brain. In Tooby and Cosmides's first chapter in The Adapted Mind, they sometimes use the term "brain/mind," which they say contains psychological adaptations. Yet, from my perspective, if adaptations of any kind are functions, functions are an attributed property of matter that do not exist in the matter itself. So the brain does not really contain psychological adaptations. However, the mind, if defined as the information processing function of the brain, could be said have various psychological adaptations attributed to it. I don't think anyone is going to argue that a function can not be categorized into subunits. But it is an interpretation or an assumption and not an observation to call all such subunits of functions adaptations.

         

        Just for historical interest I looked up the definition of the word "mind" in Noyes and Kolb's Modern Clinical Psychiatry, W.B. Saunders Company, 1963, which was the most popular American textbook of psychiatry in its day. It says on page 4, " . . . It will be noted that in the definition of psychiatry there was no mention of the word 'mind.' There need not be, however, any objection to the use of the word provided it is employed as a collective designation for certain functional activities of the organism, particularly those of the organism as an individual personality . . . The 'mind,' therefore, is merely one aspect -- the psychological aspect -- of biological functioning of the organism and not a metaphysical entity having an existence parallel to the body." That definition is close to "the information processing function of the brain."

         

        In contrast to this most popular American textbook of psychiatry cited above, the most popular British textbooks of psychiatry in the same period (which were Slater and Roth's Clinical Psychiatry, Bailliere, Tindall and Cassell, 1969 and Henderson and Gillespie's Texbook of Psychiatry, revised by Ivor R.C. Batchelor, 10th edition, Oxford University Press, 1969) do not even have the word, "mind" in the index and don't use the word at all. Going back even further, in my translated version of the very influential German text, Eugen Bleuler's Textbook of Psychiatry, The Macmillan Company [English translation], 1936, the word "mind" also does not appear in the index or in the text. So historically British and continental psychiatry appear to have ignored the concept of the mind and American psychiatry at least mentioned it in the introduction of a popular textbook. Today, even American psychiatry seems to be "mindless," as the word is hardly used at all. In psychology, the concept of mind appears to have emerged during the era of depth psychology, died in the era of behaviorism and learning theory and is now going through a resurrection with a new and refined definition. 

         

        If the "mind" is going to be the keystone of evolutionary psychology, then it is essential that the mind be defined in such a way that all evolutionary psychologists agree, otherwise, communication is hampered. Defining the mind as the information processing function of the brain is the cognitive psychology definition. Does evolutionary psychology have another definition? Maybe people on the list can suggest definitions, but they should be concise, simple and operational.

         

        Regards,

        Jay R. Feierman

         

         

         

        ----- Original Message -----

        Sent: Sunday, January 02, 2005 7:51 AM

        Subject: Re: [evol-psych] Re: Basics Explained: What is Evolutionary Psychology

         

        >
        >
        > Mike Tintner:
        >
        > Your posting (copied below) leads me to pose a question for you that is at the center of the issues that have given rise to Evolutionary Psychology but are not always addressed.   While I pose this question as if it is personally focused on YOU (in part because i disagree with some of your formulations), the question and your answer will concern everyone on the EP list. 
        >
        > Just what do you mean by "mind"?  Does it include non-conscious and preconscious responses that are not controlled by (and often control) "intentionality"?  Does it include innate responses (both at the level of perception and of motor behavior)?    And above all, do you exclude from Evolutionary Psychology and its definition of "mind" all  "functional adaptations" that include thoughts and behaviors that are means to "natural" ends (or what Aristotle called "teleology")?   Or are you merely arguing that some human behavior is not so constrained?  (The adaptive characteristics of human thought and behavior include, by the way, the cooperative social behavior and thinking embedded in language, which is most emphatically NOT a trait of the individual mind acting in isolation.  Are you merely saying that culture shapes human behavior in ways not always constrained by species specific adaptations?)
        >
        > I ask because your statements seem to echo the views of human nature found in modern political philosophers in the tradition of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau.   For example, you refer to human behaviors as "merely different uses of a general-purpose machine which is capable of an infinite variety of behaviour, and only goes through significant biological adaptations/changes rarely."   As a specialist in political philosophy, I have concluded that your statement and the similar assumptions of these moderns are contradicted by contemporary evolutionary biology and cognitive neuroscience whereas the broad framework of Aristotelian thought (though of course not all of its details ) is more accurate.   On this ground,  the word "infinite" In the sentence just quoted is simply false.    
        >
        > To make this more concrete, your posting entails a highly individualist view of human nature which arose only in Western European civilization and, as I'm prepared to argue on textual grounds, can be traced to the theological principles of ancient Hebrew and early Christian thought after its radical secularization in the Renaissance.   My point is that the contemporary scientific evidence indicates that Aristotle was simply correct to describe humans as the "political animal."  From that perspective, the game theoretical approach you cite with favor only describes a circumscribed set of actions and contexts, and suffers from inaccuracies similar to those found in the individualistic view of "man" and the "mind" underlying the conceptions of the "state of nature" in Hobbes' LEVIATHAN, Locke's SECOND TREATISE, or Rousseau's SECOND DISCOURSE.
        >
        >            roger masters, Dartmouth College
        >
        >
        > -- You wrote:
        > RKS wrote:

        > Thus we see that the common consensus is that Evolutionary Psychology
        > is primarily an approach to psychology, especially to solving the
        > general behaviour of modern humans, the nature of their minds, their
        > subjective experience, and social systems and culture.
        >
        > -----------------------------------

        > This certainly seems to be the consensus, but I don't think it is what Evolutionary Psychology ought to be. It should be the study of the evolution of the mind and mind-controlled behaviour through the species - all the species, humans included.

        > EP should, for example, be studying the general evolution of the conscious mind, intelligence, emotions, and conscience from their earliest beginnings. That might start with studying how problem-solving evolved from, say,  the paramoecium 'deciding'  - almost randomly it would seem - when to take a new direction in search of new liquids, to the worm deciding what new material it should stuff its burrow with. ( Darwin attributed some intelligence to the worm:

        > it is far more surprising that they [worms] should apparently exhibit some degrees of intelligence instead of a mere blind instinctive impulse, in their manner of plugging up the mouths of their burrows. They act in nearly the same manner as would a man, who had to close a cylindrical tube with different kinds of leaves, petioles, triangles of paper, for they commonly seize such objects by their pointed ends.
        > The Formation of Vegetable Mould]
        >
        > EP should also be studying how the activities of all living creatures have evolved. There is enormous scope for applying common models to all these activities, like Games Theory - as Herb Gintis has pointed out here and elsewhere -  in concert with evolutionary biology.
        >
        > All of this should certainly lead up to the evolution of the human mind and behaviour, and specifically human features like human language. But there is far too much emphasis both in this group and EP generally, it seems to me, on explaining the "general behaviour of MODERN humans."  The result is a wild tendency to label all kinds of human behaviour as biological adaptations or maladaptations, when probably they are no such thing - merely different uses of a general-purpose machine which is capable of an infinite variety of behaviour, and only goes through significant biological adaptations/changes rarely.
        >
        > EP will only make a lasting mark on the scientific landscape when it can explain some of the stages of evolution of the mind, rather than trying - in general unsatisfactorily -  to explain modern behaviour..
        >
        > [That is not to say that I don't enjoy many if not most of the threads here - only that I wouldn't consider them all good EP].
        >

        >

        >

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