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Thought in a Hostile World: The Evolution of Human Cognition

By: Kim Sterelny(Author)

262 pages, no illustrations


Paperback | Jun 2003 | #144002 | ISBN: 0631188878
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NHBS Price: £33.99 $45/€39 approx

About this book

After laying out a set of analytical tools for thinking about cognition and its evolution, the author examines the relationship between folk psychology and an integrated scientific conception of human cognition. In the process, he explores how and why human minds have evolved. He argues that humans are cognitively, socially and sexually very unlike the other great apes, and that despite our relatively recent separation from their lineages, human psychology is the result of the operation of distinctive evolutionary mechanisms. Finally, he offers a critique of nativist, modular versions of evolutionary psychology.

"Written with both clarity and rigor, Thought in a Hostile World is a richly informed and sophisticated account of the evolution of complex cognition. Sterelny's arguments appeal, not so much because they reinforce our preconceptions – on the contrary, we are frequently challenged – but rather because they are informed, well-reasoned, and leave us with plenty to think about. Sterelny's book could aptly be renamed Clear Thought in a Muddled World and evolutionary psychologists, in particular, would benefit from reading it."
- Kevin N. Laland, University of St. Andrews

"This book is a godsend for anyone wanting to understand the evolution of human cognition without buying into the wholesale modularism of recent evolutionary psychology. Densely, but elegantly, written and replete with fascinating empirical detail, this book represents a major advance in the philosophical understanding of human cognitive evolution."
- Fiona Cowie, California Institute of Technology



Part I: Assembling Intentionality:.
1. Evolutionary Naturalism.
2. Detection Systems.
3. Fuels For Success.
4. Fuels For Success: The Social Intelligence Hypothesis.
5. The Descent Of Preference.

Part II: Not Just Another Species Of Large Mammal:.
6. Reconstructing Hominid Evolution.
7. The Co-Operation Explosion.
8. The Self-Made Species.
9. Heterogeneous Environments And Variable Response.

Part III: The Fate Of The Folk:.
10. The Massive Modularity Hypothesis.
11. Interpreting Other Agents.


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Kim Sterelny is Professor of Philosophy at Victoria University in Wellington and at the Research School of Social Science at the Australian National University. He is the author of The Representational Theory of Mind (Blackwell, 1990) and the co-author, with Michael Devitt, of Language and Reality (second edition, 1999) and with Paul Griffiths, Sex and Death: An Introduction to Philosophy of Biology (1999).

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