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The Descent of MindPsychological Perspectives on Hominid Evolution$
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Michael Corballis and Stephen E. G. Lea

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780192632593

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780192632593.001.0001

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Beliefs about purpose: on the origins of teleological thought

Beliefs about purpose: on the origins of teleological thought

(p.278) 14 Beliefs about purpose: on the origins of teleological thought
The Descent of Mind

Deborah Kelemen

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines and speculates on some possible answers to questions on the nature of the teleological stance and why people are driven to think about the purpose of objects. It lays out some general assumptions and argues that adopting the teleological construal is not just something people find useful to do, but is something that they are compelled to do because of the way minds are designed. In support of this, the chapter briefly overviews some of the evidence demonstrating the pervasiveness of teleological ideas through human history and across cultures. It further discusses Jean Piaget's domain, generalist ideas on ‘childhood artificialism’, three ‘domain-specific’ hypotheses, Frank Keil's idea of ‘functional things’, and Scott Atran's argument that the stance evolved as part of a specialised mental module for classifying and reasoning about biological kinds. Finally, the chapter discusses the hypothesis on ‘Promiscuous Teleology’.

Keywords:   teleological stance, objects, Jean Piaget, childhood artificialism, domain-specific hypotheses, Frank Keil, functional things, Scott Atran, Promiscuous Teleology

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