A Brief History of the Mind: From Apes to Intellect and Beyond

Paperback | August 25, 2005

byWilliam H. Calvin

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This book looks back at the simpler versions of mental life in apes, Neanderthals, and our ancestors, back before our burst of creativity started 50,000 years ago. When you can't think about the future in much detail, you are trapped in a here-and-now existence with no "What if?" and "Whyme?" William H. Calvin takes stock of what we have now and then explains why we are nearing a crossroads, where mind shifts gears again. The mind's big bang came long after our brain size stopped enlarging. Calvin suggests that the development of long sentences--what modern children do in their third year--was the most likely trigger. To keep a half-dozen concepts from blending together like a summer drink, you need somemental structuring. In saying "I think I saw him leave to go home," you are nesting three sentences inside a fourth. We also structure plans, play games with rules, create structured music and chains of logic, and have a fascination with discovering how things hang together. Our long train ofconnected thoughts is why our consciousness is so different from what came before. Where does mind go from here, its powers extended by science-enhanced education but with its slowly evolving gut instincts still firmly anchored in the ice ages? We will likely shift gears again, juggling more concepts and making decisions even faster, imagining courses of action in greaterdepth. Ethics are possible only because of a human level of ability to speculate, judge quality, and modify our possible actions accordingly. Though science increasingly serves as our headlights, we are out-driving them, going faster than we can react effectively.

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From the Publisher

This book looks back at the simpler versions of mental life in apes, Neanderthals, and our ancestors, back before our burst of creativity started 50,000 years ago. When you can't think about the future in much detail, you are trapped in a here-and-now existence with no "What if?" and "Whyme?" William H. Calvin takes stock of what we h...

William H. Calvin is a neurobiologist at the University of Washington in Seattle who wanders regularly into anthropology, evolution, and climate change. He is the author of A Brain for All Seasons, which won the Phi Beta Kappa 2002 Book Award for contributions to literature by scientists.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:240 pages, 5.39 × 8.19 × 0.71 inPublished:August 25, 2005Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195182480

ISBN - 13:9780195182484

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"As a work of writing, A Brief History of the Mind is not just a summary of Calvin's thoughts; it is full of eloquent quotes from other thinkers. It has a good bibliography for readers who wish to explore this subject.... It is hard to imagine a subject of more fundamental interest to humanbeings. If you've ever wondered why you are who you are, 'A Brief History of the Mind' is a good place to start."--Seattle Times