ARTICLE: Darwin, Hume, Morgan, and the verae causae of psychology

A Darwin article in the new issue of Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences:

Darwin, Hume, Morgan, and the verae causae of psychology

Hayley Clatterbuck

Abstract Charles Darwin and C. Lloyd Morgan forward two influential principles of cognitive ethological inference that yield conflicting results about the extent of continuity in the cognitive traits of humans and other animals. While these principles have been interpreted as reflecting commitments to different senses of parsimony, in fact, both principles result from the same vera causa inferential strategy, according to which “We ought to admit no more causes of natural things, than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances”. Instead, the conflict stems from Darwin’s and Morgan’s views about the true causes of human psychology. Darwin holds a thoroughly Humean philosophy of the human mind, from which he infers significant continuity between human and animal minds. In contrast, Morgan argues that Humean cognitive mechanisms cannot account for a class of uniquely human behaviors, and therefore, he concludes that there is a significant discontinuity between human and animal cognition. This historical debate is informative for current controversies in comparative psychology.

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