Sarah Coakley considers the main challenge in evolutionary psychology and the philosophy of mind.
The main challenge in evolutionary psychology is whether it will be allowed theoretically that there is something called cultural evolution, which transcends what comes to us through the animal. So if you start with the presumption that everything that humans do is simply reduced to biological drives or evolutionarily-disposed propulsions, and that there is nothing distinctive in the human that causes us to be able to self-reflexively look at those drives – with all the understanding that evolutionary science gives to us – and then think about where we wish to go, then obviously you’re cutting off your nose before you even start the discussion.
The question here though is how we theorise cultural evolution. There are some people who are totally committed to the idea that evolutionary theory can only discuss genes, and therefore ideas and developments of vision and hopes and so on and so forth are really outside the sphere of evolutionary theory. There are others who think that this is where we now need to develop our skills with much greater applicability.
However, what of course is central to this discussion is precisely what you think about the philosophy of mind. Is there something called the mental which supervenes over the physical, over the brain, or are we reducible to brain mechanisms? That’s the $64,000 question. And it’s a philosophical question. It isn’t a question that scientists can answer qua scientists, they have to do business with the philosophers.<