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The Grain of Domains: The Evolutionary-Psychological Case Against Domain-General Cognition

Atkinson A & Wheeler M (2004) The Grain of Domains: The Evolutionary-Psychological Case Against Domain-General Cognition. Mind and Language, 19 (2), pp. 147-176.

Prominent evolutionary psychologists have argued that our innate psychological endowment consists of numerous domain-specific cognitive resources, rather than a few domain-general ones. In the light of some conceptual clarification, we examine the central in-principle arguments that evolutionary psychologists mount against domain-general cognition. We conclude (a) that the fundamental logic of Darwinism, as advanced within evolutionary psychology, does not entail that the innate mind consists exclusively, or even massively, of domain-specific features, and (b) that a mixed innate cognitive economy of domain-specific and domain-general resources remains a genuine conceptual possibility. However, an examination of evolutionary psychology's ‘grain problem' reveals that there is no way of establishing a principled and robust distinction between domain-specific and domain-general features. Nevertheless, we show that evolutionary psychologists can and do live with this grain problem without their whole enterprise being undermined.

Mind and Language: Volume 19, Issue 2

Author(s)Atkinson, Anthony; Wheeler, Michael
Publication date30/04/2004
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