Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 95–117 | Cite as

The Environments of Our Hominin Ancestors, Tool-usage, and Scenario Visualization



In this paper, I give an account of how our hominin ancestors evolved a conscious ability I call scenario visualization that enabled them to manufacture novel tools so as to survive and flourish in the ever-changing and complex environments in which they lived. I first present the ideas and arguments put forward by evolutionary psychologists that the mind evolved certain mental capacities as adaptive responses to environmental pressures. Specifically, Steven Mithen thinks that the mind has evolved cognitive fluidity, viz., an ability to exchange information flexibly between and among mental modules. Showing the deficiency in Mithen’s view, I then argue that the flexible exchange of information between and among modules together with scenario visualization is what explains the ability to construct the novel tools needed to survive and flourish in the environments in which our hominin ancestors resided. Finally, I trace the development of the multi-purposed javelin, from its meager beginnings as a stick, in order to illustrate scenario visualization in novel tool manufacturing.


Cognitive fluidity Consciousness Cosmides Evolutionary psychology Integration Mithen Scenario visualization Segregation Tooby Tool-usage 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophySaint Louis UniversitySt. LouisUSA

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