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Lecture 2: The Model in Action: Against Moral Nativism

Language, complex tool-use, extensive co-operation between non-relatives; religion and ritual are all distinctive features of the human mind. They seem to be found in no other living primate, and they seem to be features of all human cultures and of most (perhaps all) their members. We are tool-using, talking, co-operating, god-bothering apes. We are also moralising apes: arguably, making moral judgements is both typically human, and unique to humans. Recently, this has been grist for the modular nativist mill; Marc Hauser and John Mikhail (most notably) have explicitly based their models of moral cognition on language. I draw on the ...
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Lecture 3: The Model in Action: Social Learning and Its Transformation

Social learning is not unique to our species; we do not differ from other primates through being able to learn from our fellows. But social learning takes a unique form in our species: we can accumulate cognitive capital. Human groups (and perhaps individual humans) inherit informational resources from the previous generation, preserve those resources effectively, sometimes add to them, and transmit them accurately to the next generation. This accumulation of cognitive resources is (i) unique; (ii) is central to the explanation of the adaptation of individual and groups to their environment (as Pete Richerson and Bob Boyd have often stressed); ...
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Lecture 4: The Model in Action: Revisiting The Problem of Co-Operation

This session is about the distinctive feedback loops that drove our evolutionary trajectory, and in particular, about the role of co-operation in human evolution. An important theme is that the defection problem, while real and important, has been both over-played and misdescribed. It has been overplayed: understanding how the threat of defection has been contained is not the only challenge to understanding co-operation. It has been misdescribed: in most environments, the defection problem is not one of identification but control. Instead of focusing on defection and its potential costs, I focus on the profit of co-operation, and how that profit ...
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