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Numbers and the Making of Us: Counting and the Course of Human Cultures
     

Numbers and the Making of Us: Counting and the Course of Human Cultures

by Caleb Everett
 

Carved into our past, woven into our present, numbers shape our perceptions of the world and of ourselves much more than we commonly think. Numbers and the Making of Us is a sweeping account of how numbers radically enhanced our species’ cognitive capabilities and sparked a revolution in human culture. Caleb Everett brings new insights in psychology,

Overview

Carved into our past, woven into our present, numbers shape our perceptions of the world and of ourselves much more than we commonly think. Numbers and the Making of Us is a sweeping account of how numbers radically enhanced our species’ cognitive capabilities and sparked a revolution in human culture. Caleb Everett brings new insights in psychology, anthropology, primatology, linguistics, and other disciplines to bear in explaining the myriad human behaviors and modes of thought numbers have made possible, from enabling us to conceptualize time in new ways to facilitating the development of writing, agriculture, and other advances of civilization.

Number concepts are a human invention—a tool, much like the wheel, developed and refined over millennia. Numbers allow us to grasp quantities precisely, but they are not innate. Recent research confirms that most specific quantities are not perceived in the absence of a number system. In fact, without the use of numbers, we cannot precisely grasp quantities greater than three; our minds can only estimate beyond this surprisingly minuscule limit.

Everett examines the various types of numbers that have developed in different societies, showing how most number systems derived from anatomical factors such as the number of fingers on each hand. He details fascinating work with indigenous Amazonians who demonstrate that, unlike language, numbers are not a universal human endowment. Yet without numbers, the world as we know it would not exist.

Editorial Reviews

Bernard Comrie
Caleb Everett provides a fascinating account of the development of human numeracy, from innate abilities to the complexities of agricultural and trading societies, all viewed against the general background of human cultural evolution. He successfully draws together insights from linguistics, cognitive psychology, anthropology, and archaeology in a way that is accessible to the general reader as well as to specialists. He does not avoid controversy, making this a key contribution to a developing debate.
Bernd Heine
In his journey through the millennia of human evolution, from the forests of Amazonia to the deserts of Australia, ever in search of a better understanding of human diversity, Caleb Everett presents a breathtaking narrative of how the human species developed one of its most distinct cognitive and linguistic achievements: to count and to use concepts of quantity to expand and enrich a wide range of cultural activities.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674504431
Publisher:
Harvard
Publication date:
03/13/2017
Pages:
312
Sales rank:
464,749
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Caleb Everett is an Andrew Carnegie Fellow and Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Miami.

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