Foundations of Science

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 157-196

First online:

Towards a Darwinian Approach to Mathematics

  • Helen De CruzAffiliated withCentrum voor Logica en Wetenschapsfilosofie, Vrije Universiteit Brussel Email author 

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


In the past decades, recent paradigm shifts in ethology, psychology, and the social sciences have given rise to various new disciplines like cognitive ethology and evolutionary psychology. These disciplines use concepts and theories of evolutionary biology to understand and explain the design, function and origin of the brain. I shall argue that there are several good reasons why this approach could also apply to human mathematical abilities. I will review evidence from various disciplines (cognitive ethology, cognitive psychology, cognitive archaeology and neuropsychology) that suggests that the human capacity for mathematics is a category-specific domain of knowledge, hard-wired in the brain, which can be explained as the result of natural selection.


philosophy of mathematics cognitive science animal cognition cognitive archaeology evolution