Verbs, Bones, and Brains: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Human Nature

University of Notre Dame Pess
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The last few decades have seen an unprecedented surge of empirical and philosophical research into the evolutionary history of Homo sapiens, the origins of the mind/brain, and human culture. This research and its popular interpretations have sparked heated debates about the nature of human beings and how knowledge about humans from the sciences and humanities should be properly understood. The goal of Verbs, Bones, and Brains: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Human Nature is to engage these themes and present current debates, discussions, and discourse for a range of readers. The contributors bring the discussion to life with key experts outlining major concepts paired with cross-disciplinary commentaries in order to create a novel approach to thinking about, and with, human natures. The intent of the contributors to this volume is not to enter into or adjudicate complex philosophical issues of an epistemological or metaphysical nature. Instead, their common concern is to set aside the rigid distinctions between biology and culture that have made such discussions problematic. First, informing their approach is an acknowledgment of the widespread disagreement about such basic metaphysical and epistemological questions as the existence of God, the nature of scientific knowledge, and the existence of essences, among other topics. Second, they try to identify and explicate the assumptions that enter into their conceptualizations of human nature. Throughout, they emphasize the importance of seeking a convergence in our views on human nature, despite metaphysical disagreements. They caution that if convergence eludes us and a common ground cannot be found, this is itself a relevant result: it would reveal to us how deeply our questions about ourselves are connected to our basic metaphysical assumptions. Instead, their focus is on how the interdisciplinary and possibly transdisciplinary conversation can be enhanced in order to identify and develop a common ground on what constitutes human nature.
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About the author

Agustín Fuentes is professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame.

Aku Visala is a university researcher in the Faculty of Theology at the University of Helsinki, Finland.

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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Notre Dame Pess
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Published on
Jan 15, 2017
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Pages
312
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ISBN
9780268101176
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Language
English
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Genres
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
Social Science / Anthropology / Physical
Social Science / Archaeology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Agustín Fuentes
A bold new synthesis of paleontology, archaeology, genetics, and anthropology that overturns misconceptions about race, war and peace, and human nature itself, answering an age-old question: What made humans so exceptional among all the species on Earth?
 
Creativity. It is the secret of what makes humans special, hiding in plain sight. Agustín Fuentes argues that your child's finger painting comes essentially from the same place as creativity in hunting and gathering millions of years ago, and throughout history in making war and peace, in intimate relationships, in shaping the planet, in our communities, and in all of art, religion, and even science. It requires imagination and collaboration. Every poet has her muse; every engineer, an architect; every politician, a constituency. The manner of the collaborations varies widely, but successful collaboration is inseparable from imagination, and it brought us everything from knives and hot meals to iPhones and interstellar spacecraft.

Weaving fascinating stories of our ancient ancestors' creativity, Fuentes finds the patterns that match modern behavior in humans and animals. This key quality has propelled the evolutionary development of our bodies, minds, and cultures, both for good and for bad. It's not the drive to reproduce; nor competition for mates, or resources, or power; nor our propensity for caring for one another that have separated us out from all other creatures.

As Fuentes concludes, to make something lasting and useful today you need to understand the nature of your collaboration with others, what imagination can and can't accomplish, and, finally, just how completely our creativity is responsible for the world we live in. Agustín Fuentes's resounding multimillion-year perspective will inspire readers—and spark all kinds of creativity.
Agustín Fuentes
A bold new synthesis of paleontology, archaeology, genetics, and anthropology that overturns misconceptions about race, war and peace, and human nature itself, answering an age-old question: What made humans so exceptional among all the species on Earth?
 
Creativity. It is the secret of what makes humans special, hiding in plain sight. Agustín Fuentes argues that your child's finger painting comes essentially from the same place as creativity in hunting and gathering millions of years ago, and throughout history in making war and peace, in intimate relationships, in shaping the planet, in our communities, and in all of art, religion, and even science. It requires imagination and collaboration. Every poet has her muse; every engineer, an architect; every politician, a constituency. The manner of the collaborations varies widely, but successful collaboration is inseparable from imagination, and it brought us everything from knives and hot meals to iPhones and interstellar spacecraft.

Weaving fascinating stories of our ancient ancestors' creativity, Fuentes finds the patterns that match modern behavior in humans and animals. This key quality has propelled the evolutionary development of our bodies, minds, and cultures, both for good and for bad. It's not the drive to reproduce; nor competition for mates, or resources, or power; nor our propensity for caring for one another that have separated us out from all other creatures.

As Fuentes concludes, to make something lasting and useful today you need to understand the nature of your collaboration with others, what imagination can and can't accomplish, and, finally, just how completely our creativity is responsible for the world we live in. Agustín Fuentes's resounding multimillion-year perspective will inspire readers—and spark all kinds of creativity.
Celia Deane-Drummond
This volume addresses key questions about the puzzle of human origins by focusing on a topic that is largely unexplored thus far, namely, the evolution of human wisdom. How can we best understand the human capacity for wisdom, where did it come from, and how did it emerge? It explores lines of convergence and divergence between Christian theology and evolutionary anthropology in its search to identify different aspects of wisdom. Critical to this discussion are the philosophical difficulties that arise when two very different methodological approaches to the manner of humans becoming wise are brought together. The relative importance and significance of human language is another area of intense debate in defining the meaning of wisdom and its expression. How far and to what extent does a theologically informed wisdom discourse push evolutionary anthropology to formulate new questions and vice versa?

This volume shows that there is no simple consonance between evolutionary anthropology and theology. Yet, each discipline has much to learn from the other; the authors are in agreement that even in the midst of an awareness of dissonance and some tension, there can still be mutual respect. The goal of this book is to begin to develop a trans-disciplinary approach to the evolution of human wisdom, where each discipline is challenged to ask questions in a new way. This volume tackles the relationship between theology and science in a fresh way by focusing on a specific theme—wisdom—that is equally generative for both theology and evolutionary anthropology.
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