Three prehistoric inventions that shaped us / David Martel Johnson
- Johnson, David Martel
- New York : Peter Lang, 
- Copyright Date:
- Physical Description:
- xvi, 192 pages ; 24 cm
- Machine generated contents note: ch. 1 The Oldest Question: What Separates Human Beings from All Other Creatures? -- 1.1.Hummingbirds and Homo Sapiens -- 1.2.Is there any such thing as human nature? -- 1.3.Did a "Linguistic Rubicon" occur at a certain point in human history? -- 1.4.The thesis of this book: The distinctiveness of present-day humans (including separateness stemming from their use of language) is not just a passive product of biological and historical changes, but also was partly self-created -- ch. 2 Darwin and his Successors have Not Taken Proper Account of Culturally Created Human Characteristics -- 2.1.What modern humans are like: A tangled knot science only has begun to untie -- 2.2.Why culture is real -- 2.3.It is misleading to suppose that the existence of cultural items depends on conscious stipulations -- ch. 3 One Invention that pointed the way toward Present-day Human Nature: The First Domestication of Animals -- 3.1.Instead of beginning a review of our species' most important properties by talking about the complex and mysterious ability to speak, it is clarifying to focus first on the simpler, and earlier acquired, ability to tame and exploit some of our fellow creatures -- 3.2.Two clues from early hominid history about the background of the nature we now possess: (A) The biological isolation of homo erectus, and (B) The "Pit of Bones" in Spain -- 3.3.Entrapment vs. attraction: What was it necessary for the first domestic animals to be like, in order for them to "Tame Themselves"? -- 3.4.What changes had to occur in humans' cultural life, before the domestication of animals could take place? -- ch. 4 Something else that influenced us: Sophisticated Language conceived as Invented rather than completely Innate, Socio-Cultural as well as Biological -- 4.1.How did humans become able to speak? -- 4.2.A preparatory comment: To say that certain humans invented language is not to claim (nor does it entail) that those same people also created everything language either includes or presupposes -- 4.3.A Semi-digression: Talking does not have to be associated with counting -- 4.4.A key for distinguishing speech from codes (and thus also from the communication systems employed by many non-human animals) is to remember that the most important function of language is to enable subjects to think in new ways -- 4.5.Was Helen Keller right to believe she suddenly had been transformed from an animal into a human? -- 4.6.Our ancestors may have learned their first expandable word---and thereby also acquired their first full language---by means of a shared memory that became fixed in their minds through something like a divine revelation -- ch. 5 A Third, Even Earlier Invention that shaped Our Nature: Religious or Objective Consciousness -- 5.1.The reason religious thinking became universal for the members of our species was that it was a mode of thought that helped us see and understand things as they actually were -- 5.2.The extinction of the Neanderthals, and other trophy wars -- 5.3.Superstitions are unconsciously formed reactions to patterns of experience that are based on unexamined wishes and fears; but religious consciousness is thinking of a more dispassionate sort, which can provide a rational basis for hope -- 5.4.Which is more natural and informative: (A) To think about sophisticated human language in terms of recursion and discrete infinity, or (B) To think about such language in terms of psychic distance? -- ch. 6 Human Nature conceived as a Lately Discovered, Causally Powerful (but Perilous) Ecological Opportunity -- 6.1.Darwin compared with Columbus -- 6.2.The ecological concept of Niches is more explanatory than the genealogical notion of species -- 6.3.Considered together, the three cultural inventions discussed in this book add up to our ancestors' discovery of an unoccupied Niche, physically present in the natural world -- 6.4.Historically accumulated layers of human nature, and the contrast between good and bad ways of combining those layers.
- 9781433110900 (hardcover : alk. paper)
1433110903 (hardcover : alk. paper)
- Bibliography Note:
- Includes bibliographical references and indexes.
- Source of Acquisition:
- UP-PAT copy: Purchased with funds from the Paterno Libraries Endowment; 2010.
- Endowment Note:
- Paterno Libraries Endowment
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