Cultural evolution, philosophy and the emotions

May 28, 2013 - May 30, 2013
Institute of Philosophy, University of Leuven


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Stefano Ghirlanda
City University of New York
Daniel Kelly
Purdue University
Tim Lewens
Cambridge University
Stefan Linquist
University of Guelph
Lesley Newson
University of California, Davis
Grant Ramsey
University of Notre Dame
Peter J. Richerson
University of California, Davis
Murray Smith
University of Kent at Canterbury

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The past decades have witnessed a proliferation of evolutionary theories on culture and cultural capacities. In general, evolutionary theories of culture have been rather well received in the philosophical literature. However, a number of important philosophical issues concerning this theory remain largely unsettled. This focused conference aims to address some of these issues by examining how gene-culture co-evolutionary theories can explain human emotions – a topic that has been of special importance for more narrow evolutionary approaches, such as evolutionary psychology.

Below are some of the kinds of questions that we hope will be discussed in the course of the conference. The list is not exhaustive, but should be read as a list of suggestions:

  1. What role do emotions play in cultural evolution?
  2. Which human emotions are socially transmitted?
  3. Which aspects of emotions are socially transmitted?
  4. Can gene-culture co-evolutionary theory offer a plausible account of culture-bound syndromes?
  5. How can cultural evolutionary theories contribute to a more profound evolutionary understanding of basic emotions?
  6. Why have emotions been neglected by cultural evolutionists?
  7. Do some cultural variants spread because they solve emotional problems?
  8. Is emotional contagion a key factor for human cooperation?
  9. Has shame/disgust/fear been culturally exapted to solve modern adaptive problems?
  10. Can gene-culture co-evolutionary theories bring us any closer to a unified theory of the emotions?

Contact: [email protected]


Organizers are Andreas De Block, Pieter R. Adriaens and Helen De Cruz. The meeting is part of a research project about the historical and evolutionary roots of homophobia (‘Homophobia and cultural evolution: A Philosophical approach’), and is sponsored by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO-Vlaanderen), the Human Evolution and Behavior Network (HEBEN), and the Institute of Philosophy (HIW, University of Leuven).

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