[SydPhil] UOW Workshop on "The Origins of the Symbolic Mind"

michael kirchhoff michael.david.kirchhoff at gmail.com
Sun Nov 13 11:21:46 AEDT 2016

*Workshop on the origins of the symbolic mind *

Wednesday 16th November 2016

Northfield’s Campus, University of Wollongong

14:00-16:00, Research Hub (19.2072), Building 19

Dates for the first appearances of crucial technological innovations and
symbolic material culture are continually being pushed back in time. This
trend contradicts the theory that a mutation related to brain function
caused a sudden and relatively recent cognitive revolution in our lineage.
However, the alternative theory of gradual biological evolution may not fit
the archaeological record, either. Traditions within populations are
discontinuous in time and space, while independent populations can converge
on common practices. Accordingly, there is a growing consensus that changes
in the archaeological record of human behavior are better explained by
changes in local conditions, such as ecology, demography, and culture.

What does this consensus tell us about the origins of symbolic cognition?
Given increasingly older dates for key innovations and the shift in
explanatory focus from internal biology to external factors, the mainstream
argument is that cognitive modernity must be much older than previously
thought. The workshop will critically evaluate the assumed identification
of biological continuity with cognitive continuity. It will also consider
to what extent cognitive capacities are innate and context independent, and
will explore the tensions between such a nativist theory of cognition and
recent developments in cognitive science, which emphasize that cognition is
scaffolded, extended, and even constituted by behavioral practices.
Contributions to this workshop will consider possible explanations of
distinctive features of symbolic minds – explanations that may depend not
only or mainly on having the right kind of biological capacities but more
pivotally on transforming them via interaction with the appropriate
culturally created local conditions.

This workshop brings together archaeologists and philosophers working at
the University of Wollongong (UOW) to explore the implications of these
developments for cognitive archaeology and for cognitive science more


*Alex Mackay*, Senior Lecturer, ARC DECRA Fellow, Centre for Archaeological
Science, UOW

*Sam Lin*, Lecturer, Centre for Archaeological Science, UOW

*Zenobia Jacobs (TBC)*, Professor, ARC QEII Research Fellow, Centre for
Archaeological Science, UOW

*Tom Froese*, Vice Chancellor’s International Scholar, School of Humanities
and Social Inquiry, UOW

*Daniel D. Hutto*, Professor of Philosophical Psychology, School of
Humanities and Social Inquiry, UOW

All welcome.


*Dr. Michael D. Kirchhoff *
Lecturer in Philosophy
School of Humanities and Social Enquiry
Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts
University of Wollongong NSW 2522
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