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Crafting the hammer: a philosophical examination of attempts to capture the human capacity for number

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posted on 28.03.2022, 20:45 by Sumitra Vignaendra
This thesis argues that two empirical approaches to capture the human capacity for number are not well-justified and are too narrow, and consequently, are not robust enough to capture this capacity. The two empirical approaches analysed are the nativist approach endorsed by Elizabeth Spelke (e.g. 2011) and the embodied cognition approach formulated by George Lakoff and Rafael Núñez (2000). I argue that the former approach privileges neural modules in the explanation of this capacity without sufficient justification; the latter approach excludes neural circuits from the explanation, also without sufficient justification, as well as fails to provide a plausible evolutionary story to explain the emergence of number in human life. I conclude the thesis by arguing that an empirical approach robust enough to capture the human capacity for number should be informed by theories on niche construction (Sterelny, 2007); mimesis (Tomasello, 1999); the emergence of the modern mind (Donald, 1991); neural reuse (Anderson, 2010) and cognitive integration (Menary, 2007).


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Chapter 1. Setting the scene -- Chapter 2. Spelke's nativist position -- Chapter 3. The language embodied position -- Chapter 4. Enculturation -- Conclusions -- References.


Bibliography: pages 48-55 Theoretical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Philosophy

Department, Centre or School

Department of Philosophy

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Richard Menary


Copyright Sumitra Vignaendra 201. Copyright disclaimer: http://mq.edu.au/library/copyright




1 online resource (55 pages)

Former Identifiers

mq:70601 http://hdl.handle.net/1959.14/1265874