A Natural History of Human Thinking

Author: Michael Tomasello
Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN: 0674726367
Format: PDF, ePub, Docs
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Tool-making or culture, language or religious belief: ever since Darwin, thinkers have struggled to identify what fundamentally differentiates human beings from other animals. Michael Tomasello weaves his twenty years of comparative studies of humans and great apes into a compelling argument that cooperative social interaction is the key to our cognitive uniqueness. Tomasello maintains that our prehuman ancestors, like today's great apes, were social beings who could solve problems by thinking. But they were almost entirely competitive, aiming only at their individual goals. As ecological changes forced them into more cooperative living arrangements, early humans had to coordinate their actions and communicate their thoughts with collaborative partners. Tomasello's "shared intentionality hypothesis" captures how these more socially complex forms of life led to more conceptually complex forms of thinking. In order to survive, humans had to learn to see the world from multiple social perspectives, to draw socially recursive inferences, and to monitor their own thinking via the normative standards of the group. Even language and culture arose from the preexisting need to work together and coordinate thoughts. A Natural History of Human Thinking is the most detailed scientific analysis to date of the connection between human sociality and cognition.

A Natural History of Human Morality

Author: Michael Tomasello
Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN: 0674915879
Format: PDF, Mobi
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Michael Tomasello offers the most detailed account to date of the evolution of human moral psychology. Based on experimental data comparing great apes and human children, he reconstructs two key evolutionary steps whereby early humans gradually became an ultra-cooperative and, eventually, a moral species capable of acting as a plural agent “we”.

Origins of Human Communication

Author: Michael Tomasello
Publisher: MIT Press
ISBN: 0262261200
Format: PDF, Kindle
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Human communication is grounded in fundamentally cooperative, even shared, intentions. In this original and provocative account of the evolutionary origins of human communication, Michael Tomasello connects the fundamentally cooperative structure of human communication (initially discovered by Paul Grice) to the especially cooperative structure of human (as opposed to other primate) social interaction. Tomasello argues that human cooperative communication rests on a psychological infrastructure of shared intentionality (joint attention, common ground), evolved originally for collaboration and culture more generally. The basic motives of the infrastructure are helping and sharing: humans communicate to request help, inform others of things helpfully, and share attitudes as a way of bonding within the cultural group. These cooperative motives each created different functional pressures for conventionalizing grammatical constructions. Requesting help in the immediate you-and-me and here-and-now, for example, required very little grammar, but informing and sharing required increasingly complex grammatical devices. Drawing on empirical research into gestural and vocal communication by great apes and human infants (much of it conducted by his own research team), Tomasello argues further that humans' cooperative communication emerged first in the natural gestures of pointing and pantomiming. Conventional communication, first gestural and then vocal, evolved only after humans already possessed these natural gestures and their shared intentionality infrastructure along with skills of cultural learning for creating and passing along jointly understood communicative conventions. Challenging the Chomskian view that linguistic knowledge is innate, Tomasello proposes instead that the most fundamental aspects of uniquely human communication are biological adaptations for cooperative social interaction in general and that the purely linguistic dimensions of human communication are cultural conventions and constructions created by and passed along within particular cultural groups.

Why We Cooperate

Author: Michael Tomasello
Publisher: MIT Press
ISBN: 0262258498
Format: PDF, Mobi
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Drop something in front of a two-year-old, and she's likely to pick it up for you. This is not a learned behavior, psychologist Michael Tomasello argues. Through observations of young children in experiments he himself has designed, Tomasello shows that children are naturally--and uniquely--cooperative. Put through similar experiments, for example, apes demonstrate the ability to work together and share, but choose not to. As children grow, their almost reflexive desire to help--without expectation of reward--becomes shaped by culture. They become more aware of being a member of a group. Groups convey mutual expectations, and thus may either encourage or discourage altruism and collaboration. Either way, cooperation emerges as a distinctly human combination of innate and learned behavior.In Why We Cooperate, Tomasello's studies of young children and great apes help identify the underlying psychological processes that very likely supported humans' earliest forms of complex collaboration and, ultimately, our unique forms of cultural organization, from the evolution of tolerance and trust to the creation of such group-level structures as cultural norms and institutions.Scholars Carol Dweck, Joan Silk, Brian Skyrms, and Elizabeth Spelke respond to Tomasello's findings and explore the implications.

Snakes Sunrises and Shakespeare

Author: Gordon H. Orians
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
ISBN: 022600337X
Format: PDF, ePub, Mobi
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Our breath catches and we jump in fear at the sight of a snake. We pause and marvel at the sublime beauty of a sunrise. These reactions are no accident; in fact, many of our human responses to nature are steeped in our deep evolutionary past—we fear snakes because of the danger of venom or constriction, and we welcome the assurances of the sunrise as the predatory dangers of the dark night disappear. Many of our aesthetic preferences—from the kinds of gardens we build to the foods we enjoy and the entertainment we seek—are the lingering result of natural selection. In this ambitious and unusual work, evolutionary biologist Gordon H. Orians explores the role of evolution in human responses to the environment, beginning with why we have emotions and ending with evolutionary approaches to aesthetics. Orians reveals how our emotional lives today are shaped by decisions our ancestors made centuries ago on African savannas as they selected places to live, sought food and safety, and socialized in small hunter-gatherer groups. During this time our likes and dislikes became wired in our brains, as the appropriate responses to the environment meant the difference between survival or death. His rich analysis explains why we mimic the tropical savannas of our ancestors in our parks and gardens, why we are simultaneously attracted to danger and approach it cautiously, and how paying close attention to nature’s sounds has resulted in us being an unusually musical species. We also learn why we have developed discriminating palates for wine, and why we have strong reactions to some odors, and why we enjoy classifying almost everything. By applying biological perspectives ranging from Darwin to current neuroscience to analyses of our aesthetic preferences for landscapes, sounds, smells, plants, and animals, Snakes, Sunrises, and Shakespeare transforms how we view our experience of the natural world and how we relate to each other.

Computational Logic and Human Thinking

Author: Robert Kowalski
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 1139498150
Format: PDF, Mobi
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The practical benefits of computational logic need not be limited to mathematics and computing. As this book shows, ordinary people in their everyday lives can profit from the recent advances that have been developed for artificial intelligence. The book draws upon related developments in various fields from philosophy to psychology and law. It pays special attention to the integration of logic with decision theory, and the use of logic to improve the clarity and coherence of communication in natural languages such as English. This book is essential reading for teachers and researchers who may be out of touch with the latest developments in computational logic. It will also be useful in any undergraduate course that teaches practical thinking, problem solving or communication skills. Its informal presentation makes the book accessible to readers from any background, but optional, more formal, chapters are also included for those who are more technically oriented.

Thinking Animals

Author: Paul Shepard
Publisher: University of Georgia Press
ISBN: 0820342343
Format: PDF, Docs
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In a world increasingly dominated by human beings, the survival of other species becomes more and more questionable. In this brilliant book, Paul Shepard offers a provocative alternative to an "us or them" mentality, proposing that other species are integral to humanity's evolution and exist at the core of our imagination. This trait, he argues, compels us to think of animals in order to be human. Without other living species by which to measure ourselves, Shepard warns, we would be less mature, care less for and be more careless of all life, including our own kind.

The Company of Strangers

Author: Paul Seabright
Publisher: Princeton University Press
ISBN: 9781400834785
Format: PDF, Docs
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The Company of Strangers shows us the remarkable strangeness, and fragility, of our everyday lives. This completely revised and updated edition includes a new chapter analyzing how the rise and fall of social trust explain the unsustainable boom in the global economy over the past decade and the financial crisis that succeeded it. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, history, psychology, and literature, Paul Seabright explores how our evolved ability of abstract reasoning has allowed institutions like money, markets, cities, and the banking system to provide the foundations of social trust that we need in our everyday lives. Even the simple acts of buying food and clothing depend on an astonishing web of interaction that spans the globe. How did humans develop the ability to trust total strangers with providing our most basic needs?

On Fertile Ground

Author: Peter Thorpe ELLISON
Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN: 9780674036444
Format: PDF, ePub
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Reproduction is among the most basic of human biological functions, both for our distant ancestors and for ourselves, whether we live on the plains of Africa or in North American suburbs. Our reproductive biology unites us as a species, but it has also been an important engine of our evolution. In the way our bodies function today we can see both the imprint of our formative past and implications for our future. It is the infinitely subtle and endlessly dramatic story of human reproduction and its evolutionary context that Peter T. Ellison tells in "On Fertile Ground." Ranging from the latest achievements of modern fertility clinics to the lives of subsistence farmers in the rain forests of Africa, this book offers both a remarkably broad and a minutely detailed exploration of human reproduction. Ellison, a leading pioneer in the field, combines the perspectives of anthropology, stressing the range and variation of human experience; ecology, sensitive to the two-way interactions between humans and their environments; and evolutionary biology, emphasizing a functional understanding of human reproductive biology and its role in our evolutionary history. Whether contrasting female athletes missing their periods and male athletes using anabolic steroids with Polish farm women and hunter-gatherers in Paraguay, or exploring the intricate choreography of an implanting embryo or of a nursing mother and her child, "On Fertile Ground" advances a rich and deeply satisfying explanation of the mechanisms by which we reproduce and the evolutionary forces behind their design.

More than Nature Needs

Author: Derek Bickerton
Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN: 067472853X
Format: PDF, Kindle
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How did humans acquire cognitive capacities far more powerful than any hunting-and-gathering primate needed to survive? Alfred Russel Wallace, co-founder with Darwin of evolutionary theory, set humans outside normal evolution. Darwin thought use of language might have shaped our sophisticated brains, but this remained an intriguing guess--until now. Combining state-of-the-art research with forty years of writing and thinking about language origins, Derek Bickerton convincingly resolves a crucial problem that biology and the cognitive sciences have systematically avoided. Before language or advanced cognition could be born, humans had to escape the prison of the here and now in which animal thinking and communication were both trapped. Then the brain's self-organization, triggered by words, assembled mechanisms that could link not only words but the concepts those words symbolized--a process that had to be under conscious control. Those mechanisms could be used equally for thinking and for talking, but the skeletal structures they produced were suboptimal for the hearer and had to be elaborated. Starting from humankind's remotest past, More than Nature Needs transcends nativist thesis and empiricist antithesis by presenting a revolutionary synthesis that shows specifically and in a principled way how and why the synthesis came about.