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I'll reword the phase "picked up" as "improved" in the following context Please kindly point it out if I am wrong.

I'm curious about whether "pick up" has the meaning "improve". What's its etymology?

But what's distinctive about this course is that in addition to the contributions that are made by the philosophical side of the equation, we're also going to be drawing from a number of other disciplines. So one of the main themes of the course will be to think about how the questions raised by the traditional philosophers that I've mentioned already are picked up in the contemporary cognitive science tradition.

--from Transcript: PHIL-181: PHILOSOPHY AND THE SCIENCE OF HUMAN NATURE

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    No, it definitely does not mean improved. Do not reword it as improved. Look up the phrasal verb pick up in a dictionary, first, please. – Dan Bron Jun 4 '15 at 10:23
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    @DanBron Then how to interpret it? – wang zhihao Jun 4 '15 at 10:26
  • Well, that's why I said to look up the phrasal verb pick up in a dictionary first, so you know what it's definitions and senses are. I'll give you some pointers: the questions raised by traditional philosophers are reflected in contemporary cog sci tradition. They're alluded to, elaborated on, responded to. These cog sci works make reference to questions raised by traditional philosophers. It may even be that the cog sci tradition raises these same questions without knowing the traditional philosophers have done so before them. – Dan Bron Jun 4 '15 at 10:31
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    @DanBron On the OP's behalf, I tried several online dictionaries (Macmillan, Oxford, and The Free Dictionary) and found no entry that'd fit the meaning you mentioned. (In fact, "improve" or "become better" is right at the top of one dictionary.) Having said that, for the OP, I believe that it's possible to understand this "pick up" loosely as picking something up from somewhere or from a pile of something, and in this context, that somewhere or that pile of something is "the questions raised by the traditional philosophers that I've (the speaker's) already mentioned". – Damkerng T. Jun 4 '15 at 11:48
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In general, the phrase 'pick up' means 'to collect'.

There are 18 different definitions at Wiktionary. Almost all of them involve taking one thing and adding it to a collection.

So in this sentence:

So one of the main themes of the course will be to think about how the questions raised by the traditional philosophers that I've mentioned already are picked up in the contemporary cognitive science tradition.

The questions are being picked up by the contemporary cognitive science tradition. This means that the questions are being added to this tradition's collection of questions. What does contemporary cognitive science do with the questions of traditional philosophers? Attempt to answer them, of course.

So all they're saying is that you'll be examining how this contemporary science has attempted to address these traditional questions.

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The best definition I can find for this usage is in the online Free Dictionary:

to pick something up:

  1. Fig. to resume something.
    Pick it up right where you stopped.
    I'll have to pick up my work where I left off.

My reading of your problem sentence is something like:

One of the main themes of the course will be to think about how the questions of traditional philosophers have been addressed by modern philosophers.

That is, the traditional philosophers asked certain questions and discussed them, then died. Modern philosophers have resumed or continued the discussion of those questions.

Figuratively, the traditional philosophers dropped the thread of the discussion and modern philosophers have picked it up again from where it was left.

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