Synopses & Reviews
Over the last three million years or so, our lineage has diverged sharply from those of our great ape relatives. Change has been rapid (in evolutionary terms) and pervasive. Morphology, life history, social life, sexual behavior, and foraging patterns have all shifted sharply away from those of the other great apes. In The Evolved Apprentice
, Kim Sterelny argues that the divergence stems from the fact that humans gradually came to enrich the learning environment of the next generation. Humans came to cooperate in sharing information, and to cooperate ecologically and reproductively as well, and these changes initiated positive feedback loops that drove us further from other great apes.
Sterelny develops a new theory of the evolution of human cognition and human social life that emphasizes the gradual evolution of information-sharing practices across generations and how these practices transformed human minds and social lives. Sterelny proposes that humans developed a new form of ecological interaction with their environment, cooperative foraging. The ability to cope with the immense variety of human ancestral environments and social forms, he argues, depended not just on adapted minds but also on adapted developmental environments.
Kim Sterelny has written a superb account of the evolution of humankind, remarkable for its breadth of vision and the range of evidence on which it draws. He reminds us how much natural selection can achieve, given vast enough stretches of time, from the accumulation of tiny physical and cultural changes too small to seem important to their immediate observers, but collectively adding up to nothing less than a revolution for our species and for our planet. The MIT Press
In The Evolved Apprentice, Kim Sterelny casts a sharp philosopher's eye on rather contentious ideas about how we evolved into a highly distinctive species over the last few million years. He wants to make these ideas square with the evidence, sorting genuine contributions of various scholars -- from often too-strong claims based on an incomplete consideration -- of all the available evidence. His apprentice learning proposal is a judicious distillation of both ideas and empiricism. < b=""> Paul Seabright <> , Toulouse School of Economics
The Evolved Apprentice is first and foremost a hypothesis about the origins of the human mind. Sterelny -- arguably the world's leading philosopher of biology -- has produced a wonderfully informed and readable treatise detailing how the construction of a nurturing environment in which others can learn has generated the positive feedback that made the difference and rendered humanity cognitively special. And I, for one, think that he is right. < b=""> Peter Richerson <> , University of California-Davis
The author's imposing scholarship, skill in philosophical analysis, and conscientious scientific methodology make this work a definitive critical discussion of current controversies concerning how humans evolved. < b=""> Kevin N. Laland <> , Professor of Biology, University of St. Andrews
andquot;Articulating the Worldandnbsp;is a work of synthesis that few authors could attempt, much less carry through. In extending and correcting avenues of inquiry opened up by the late John Haugeland, Rouse has produced a systematic and comprehensive work that that is very much Rouseand#39;s own. A work of ambition and extraordinary range, Rouseand#39;s book makes aandnbsp;significant contribution to the revival of Pragmatism in philosophy today.andquot;
andquot;Rouseand#39;s Articulating the World is a profound, important, and systematic work. It centers on the question of how to understand knowledge of a natural world as itself a part of that world, but he approaches this not from the point of view of a reductionist, the eliminativist, or any of the other standard approaches. Rather Rouse subtly mobilizes recent ideas in evolutionary biology to revise the received understanding of the social/biological distinction, of normativity, and of intentionality. Drawing on themes in Heidegger, Haugeland, and a range of other philosophers, Rouse has done something special: he has produced a genuinely new conception of our place in a natural world.andquot;
andquot;Withandnbsp;Articulating the World, Rouse has written a book that is, characteristically, at once creative,andnbsp;synthetic, erudite, and deep. Rouse breaks down all barriers between the biological materiality and the discursivity of social selves. His picture of conceptual understanding as ecological niche construction will generate a new and invigorating philosophical research program.andquot;
Naturalism as a guiding philosophy for modern science both disavows any appeal to the supernatural or anything else transcendent to nature, and repudiates any philosophical or religious authority over the workings and conclusions of the sciences. A longstanding paradox within naturalism, however, has been the status of scientific knowledge itself, which seems, at first glance, to be something that transcends and is therefore impossible to conceptualize within scientific naturalism itself.
In Articulating the World, Joseph Rouse argues that the most pressing challenge for advocates of naturalism today is precisely this: to understand how to make sense of a scientific conception of nature as itself part of nature, scientifically understood. Drawing upon recent developments in evolutionary biology and the philosophy of science, Rouse defends naturalism in response to this challenge by revising both how we understand our scientific conception of the world and how we situate ourselves within it.
The most pressing challenge for naturalism today is to understand how to make sense of a scientific understanding of nature as part of nature, scientifically understood. Meeting this challenge requires substantial, complementary revisions to familiar philosophical accounts of both of its components: how to situate our conceptual capacities within a scientific understanding of the world, and what a scientific conception of the world amounts to. Joseph Rouse advances a naturalistic self-understanding by proposing a novel way to think about scientific understanding as a natural phenomenon, drawing extensively upon the philosophy of scientific practice and related interdisciplinary science studies, philosophical work on the normativity of conceptual understanding, and important new developments in evolutionary biology.and#160;
About the Author
Joseph Rouse is the Hedding Professor of Moral Science in the Philosophy Department and the Science in Society Program at Wesleyan University. He is the author of three previous books, including How Scientific Practices Matter, also from the University of Chicago Press; and he is the editor of John Haugelandandrsquo;s posthumous Dasein Disclosed.