Workshop by Nathalie Gontier

Epistemology of the Cultural and Linguistic Evolutionary Sciences

This workshop is theoretical in scope.

Part 1. Cultural Evolution Research: History, Fields, Controversies

Attendants will be familiarized with the different approaches that characterize evolutionary research into the origin and diversification of cultures and languages and how these approaches differ from the classic humanity fields. We will discuss the merits of adopting an evolutionary outlook and review the major schools of thought, how they differentiate into distinct communities, and how these differentially define and study aspects of micro, meso and macroevolution.  We will hone in on current debates on how biological and sociocultural evolution interact and diverge, and how the extended evolutionary synthesis can help advance theory formation and research.

Recommended reading
Gontier, N. 2012. Applied Evolutionary Epistemology: A new methodology to enhance interdisciplinary research between the human and natural sciences. Kairos, Journal of Philosophy and Science 4: 7-49.
Gontier, N. 2016. Guest-Editorial Introduction: Converging Evolutionary Patterns in Life and Culture. Evolutionary Biology 43(4), 427-445.

Part 2. Theories, Patterns and Causes of Cultural Evolution

In the second part of the workshop, we will look into diverging and converging patterns of biological and sociocultural evolution.  From within ongoing debates on what the units and levels of evolution are, we will investigate how we can conceptualize sociocultural and linguistic hierarchies. And we will analyze how, beyond mechanical views, sociocultural and linguistic sciences can build causal theories that explain evolutionary change through time.

Recommended reading
Gontier, N. 2018. Pattern similarity in biological, linguistic, and sociocultural evolution. In Cuskley, C., Flaherty, M., Little, H., McCrohon, L., Ravignani, A. & Verhoef, T. (Eds.): The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 12th International Conference (EVOLANGXII).
Gontier, N. & Bradie, M. 2017. Acquiring knowledge on species-specific biorealities: The applied evolutionary epistemological approach. Joyce, R. (ed) The Routledge Handbook of Evolution and Philosophy, Routledge.
Gontier, N. 2017. What are the levels and mechanisms/processes of language evolution? Language Sciences 63: 12-43.

Further reading
Gontier, N. 2007. Universal symbiogenesis: a genuine alternative to universal selectionist accounts. Symbiosis 44: 167-181.
Gontier, N. 2018. On how Epistemology and Ontology Converge through Evolution: The Applied Evolutionary Epistemological Approach. In: Wuppuluri, S., Doria, F. (eds) The Map and the Territory. The Frontiers Collection. Foreword by Sir R. Penrose and Afterword by D. Føllesdal. Springer, Cham.