Nice idea, where are the facts,
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Prehistory of the Mind: The Cognitive Origins of Art, Religion and Science: A Search for the Origins of Art, Religion and Science (Gebundene Ausgabe)
The nature of the human mind is a problem that has gripped our imaginations since the earliest philosophers started pondering our existence. It is a conundrum that has occupied the thinking careers of many of our finest minds, from Freud to Descartes.
With a more recent resurgence in interest in the neurosciences the search has moved from the philosophers to the biological scientists who, armed with CT, MRI and PET scanners and other acronymed equipment have attempted to unlock the brain's inner workings. Psychologists, who believe that the functions of the mind are more their territory, have tried to ferret out its secrets by methods as diverse as electrocuting rats to devising intricate tests for toddlers. Steven Mithen has now turned another spotlight of inquiry onto the matter, that of archeology. He seeks to use the evolution of humanity and it's brains to explain what we now have sitting in our craniums. In this way he stands on the shoulders of such developmental giants as Piaget, Fodor and Gardner. Mithen has developed a theory that the hominid mind consists of several discrete intelligences, concerned with social interaction, natural history (animal hunting/ geographical knowledge etc..) and technical knowledge. In addition he suggests that there exits a generalised intelligence that applies fairly rigid rules to solve simple problems (the sort of intelligence seen in non-primate mammals). According to Mithen these intelligences developed over the course of human evolution from our common ape ancestor to modern man. However for much of this evolution they remained discrete entities, unable to interact. The evidence for this he draws from archeological research. For instance early humans such as Homo erectus used stone for tools (so using technical intelligence) but did not use bone or ivory for similar structures. This, he suggests, is because bone and ivory were dealt with by natural history and therefore H. erectus was unable to conceive of them as tools- these intelligences operating on a subconscious level. As humans developed these intelligences began to integrate and interact so allowing knowledge and experience from one area to influence actions in another. This interaction eventually produced the behaviors characteristic of modern Homo Sapiens sapiens. As social and natural history interacted the characteristics of humans and animals became 'confused', producing anthropomorphism and totemism. It is also this sort of interaction that, Mithen suggests, produced the art and cultural explosion of 30 to 40,000 years ago. An interaction of social, natural history and technical intelligences produced the cave paintings and intricate carvings that distinguish us from Neanderthals. One of his most interesting ideas is about the evolution of language. Building on the theories of Robin Dunbar, Mithen asserts that language initially served as a social tool used to facilitate social positioning when group sizes rose above numbers where grooming was a practicable form of interpersonal communication (as seen in chimpanzees). This language then crossed the boundaries of the intelligences as the boundaries between them became more fluid. The arrival of language brought with it the emergence of full consciousness, producing the modern mind now seen. Whilst these theories are attractive they remain just that, theories. Mithen provides no mechanism for how these intelligences arose, they just appear to pop out of thin air. And whilst the concept of various types of intelligence is enticing, he provides little evidence that such entities exist outside of the pontifications of psychologists. So what we are presented with is a very neat idea but one that is inherently untestable, unless someone finds a hither to undiscovered tribe of austropithelicians. However the main strength of the book lies not with its intriguing theories, important as they are, but with the style in which is it written. He allegorises human evolution to a four act play, where in each act the level of light ( a metaphor for the amount of archeological evidence) increases so illuminating further each stage of evolution. His ability to write clearly and in an enjoyable but unflippant style makes this book a pleasant break from other "popular science" books which all too often charge off into poorly written jargonised justifications of the author's pet area of interest. He neatly marries archeological, psychological and neuroscientific evidence and with the intelligent use of metaphorical construction produces a well informed and accessible read. This is a provocative contribution to the ongoing debate, and one that should be born in mind by other researchers sweating over a hot PET scanner.
The Prehistory of the Mind: The Cognitive Origins of Art, Religion and Science: A Search for the Origins of Art, Religion and Science(8 Kundenrezensionen)
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