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Are we evolved computers?: A critical review of Steven Pinker's How the mind works

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Steven Pinker's How the mind works (HTMW) marks in my opinion an historic point in the history of humankind's attempt to understand itself. Socrates delivered his "know thyself" imperative rather long ago, and now, finally, in this behemoth of a book, published at the dawn of a new millennium, Pinker steps up to have psychology tell us what we are: computers crafted by evolution - end of story; mystery solved; and the poor philosophers, having never managed to obey Socrates' command, are left alone to wander in the labyrinth of their benighted speculation forever. Unfortunately, though HTMW is to this point the crowning attempt of psychology to make systematic sense of persons by integrating everything relevant science knows, the book fails - and it fails so fundamentally and irremediably that we would do well to wonder anew whether we should supplant the basic view it promotes with what I call the super-mind hypothesis: the view that though mere animals are evolved computers, persons are more.
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Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: 2001-06-01

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