The Evolutionary Roots of Intelligence and Rationality

Denise Dellarosa Cummins

in Common Sense, Reasoning, and Rationality

Published in print February 2002 | ISBN: 9780195147667
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199785865 | DOI:

Series: New Directions in Cognitive Science (formerly Vancouver Studies in Cognitive Science)

 The Evolutionary Roots of Intelligence and Rationality

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This chapter argues that several important cognitive functions are shaped (through natural selection) by the exigencies of the social environment. These functions include (i) a biological predisposition to rapidly and effectively acquire implicit rules that specify what we are permitted, obligated, or forbidden to do within our social groups; and (ii) a domain-specific embedding function that enables us to effortlessly form hierarchically structured representations of what is socially crucial but essentially hidden from view, namely, the minds of others. The implication is that our capacity to form deeply embedded mental representations (and hence deeply embedded goal structures) emerged as an adaptation to the social environment. The pressure to compete and cooperate successfully with conspecifics constituted a crucible that necessitated and forged this crucial cognitive function.

Keywords: cognition; cognitive function; evolution; natural selection; social norms; mental state attribution; intelligent reasoning

Chapter.  7046 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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