Evolution and Culture: A Fyssen Foundation Symposium

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Overview

Biological and cultural processes have evolved together, in a symbiotic spiral; they are now indissolubly linked, with human survival unlikely without such culturally produced aids as clothing, cooked food, and tools. The twelve original essays collected in this volume take an evolutionary perspective on human culture, examining the emergence of culture in evolution and the underlying role of brain and cognition. The essay authors, all internationally prominent researchers in their fields, draw on the cognitive sciences — including linguistics, developmental psychology,and cognition — to develop conceptual and methodological tools for understanding the interaction of culture and genome. They go beyond the "how" — the questions of behavioral mechanisms — to address the "why" — the evolutionary origin of our psychological functioning. What was the "X-factor," the magic ingredient of culture — the element that took humans out of the general run of mammals and other highly social organisms?

Several essays identify specific behavioral and functional factors that could account for human culture, including the capacity for "mind reading"that underlies social and cultural learning and the nature of morality and inhibitions, while others emphasize multiple partially independent factors — planning, technology, learning, and language.

The X-factor, these essays suggest, is a set of cognitive adaptations for culture.

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
"Distinguished psychologists wrestle 'culture' away from the greedy grip of interpretive anthropologists and ask their own questions: What kind of evolved mind was needed to create and transmit culture? What impact does that transmitted culture exert on our evolved minds?"—Anne Campbell, Professor of Psychology, Durham University, UK

"I had long thought that the topic of function in biology was exhausted. *Organisms and Artifacts*, Tim Lewens' splendid new book, shows that I was quite wrong. Lewens unites a deep understanding of biology with a keen nose for a philosophical problem, and he has produced a work that is insightful and (just as important) highly interesting. This book will give an old problem really new life, and must be the starting point for all future discussion."—Michael Ruse, Lucyle T.

Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy, Florida State University

Anne Campbell
Distinguished psychologists wrestle 'culture' away from the greedy grip of interpretive anthropologists and ask their own questions: What kind of evolved mind was needed to create and transmit culture? What impact does that transmitted culture exert on our evolved minds?
Michael Ruse
I had long thought that the topic of function in biology was exhausted.

Organisms and Artifacts, Tim Lewens' splendid new book, shows that I was quite wrong. Lewens unites a deep understanding of biology with a keen nose for a philosophical problem,and he has produced a work that is insightful and (just as important) highly interesting. This book will give an old problem really new life, and must be the starting point for all future discussion.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262621977
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2005
  • Series: Bradford Books Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,323,655
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen C. Levinson is Director of the Language and Cognition Group at the Max PlanckInstitute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands.

Pierre Jaisson is Professor and Director of the Laboratory of Experimental and ComparativeEthology at the University of Paris-North in France.

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Table of Contents

Preface : it was not there in the Big Bang, but ...
1 Introduction : the evolution of culture in a microcosm 1
2 Quantum leaps in evolution 45
3 The emergence of culture in the context of Hominin evolutionary patterns 53
4 Interactions of culture and natural selection among Pleistocene hunters 79
5 Solving the puzzle of human cooperation 105
6 From typo to thinko : when evolution graduated to semantic norms 133
7 Conceptual tools for a naturalistic approach to cultural evolution 147
8 Brains, cognition, and the evolution of culture 169
9 The evolution of culture from a neurobiological perspective 181
10 Uniquely human cognition is a product of human culture 203
11 Moral ingredients : how we evolved the capacity to do the right thing 219
12 The cultural and evolutionary history of the real numbers 247
13 Why animals do not have culture 275
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