The Recursive Mind: The Origins of Human Language, Thought, and Civilization by Michael C. CorballisThe Recursive Mind: The Origins of Human Language, Thought, and Civilization by Michael C. Corballis

The Recursive Mind: The Origins of Human Language, Thought, and Civilization

byMichael C. Corballis

Paperback | April 27, 2014

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The Recursive Mind challenges the commonly held notion that language is what makes us uniquely human. In this compelling book, Michael Corballis argues that what distinguishes us in the animal kingdom is our capacity for recursion: the ability to embed our thoughts within other thoughts. "I think, therefore I am," is an example of recursive thought, because the thinker has inserted himself into his thought. Recursion enables us to conceive of our own minds and the minds of others. It also gives us the power of mental "time travel"--the ability to insert past experiences, or imagined future ones, into present consciousness.


Drawing on neuroscience, psychology, animal behavior, anthropology, and archaeology, Corballis demonstrates how these recursive structures led to the emergence of language and speech, which ultimately enabled us to share our thoughts, plan with others, and reshape our environment to better reflect our creative imaginations. He shows how the recursive mind was critical to survival in the harsh conditions of the Pleistocene epoch, and how it evolved to foster social cohesion. He traces how language itself adapted to recursive thinking, first through manual gestures, then later, with the emergence of Homo sapiens, vocally. Toolmaking and manufacture arose, and the application of recursive principles to these activities in turn led to the complexities of human civilization, the extinction of fellow large-brained hominins like the Neandertals, and our species' supremacy over the physical world.

Michael C. Corballis is professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. His books include From Hand to Mouth: The Origins of Language (Princeton) and A Very Short Tour of the Mind: 21 Short Walks around the Human Brain.
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Title:The Recursive Mind: The Origins of Human Language, Thought, and CivilizationFormat:PaperbackDimensions:312 pages, 9.25 × 6 × 0.68 inPublished:April 27, 2014Publisher:Princeton University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0691160945

ISBN - 13:9780691160948

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Table of Contents

Foreword to the Paperback Edition vii

Preface xi



Chapter 1 What Is Recursion? 1



PART 1: Language 17

Chapter 2: Language and Recursion 19

Chapter 3: Do Animals Have Language? 36

Chapter 4: How Language Evolved from Hand to Mouth 55



PART 2: Mental Time Travel 81

Chapter 5: Reliving the Past 83

Chapter 6: About Time 100

Chapter 7: The Grammar of Time 112



PART 3: Theory of Mind 129

Chapter 8: Mind Reading 131

Chapter 9: Language and Mind 151



PART 4: Human Evolution 167

Chapter 10: The Recurring Question 169

Chapter 11: Becoming Human 181

Chapter 12: Becoming Modern 208

Chapter 13: Final Thoughts 221



Notes 227

References 253

Index 281

Editorial Reviews

"The book nicely represents current trends in evolution-based cognitive science and presupposes very little by way of background."--Mark Aronoff, Quarterly Review of Biology