The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain

The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain

Terrence W. Deacon

Language: English

Pages: 528

ISBN: 0393317544

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

"A work of enormous breadth, likely to pleasantly surprise both general readers and experts."―New York Times Book Review

This revolutionary book provides fresh answers to long-standing questions of human origins and consciousness. Drawing on his breakthrough research in comparative neuroscience, Terrence Deacon offers a wealth of insights into the significance of symbolic thinking: from the co-evolutionary exchange between language and brains over two million years of hominid evolution to the ethical repercussions that followed man's newfound access to other people's thoughts and emotions.

Informing these insights is a new understanding of how Darwinian processes underlie the brain's development and function as well as its evolution. In contrast to much contemporary neuroscience that treats the brain as no more or less than a computer, Deacon provides a new clarity of vision into the mechanism of mind. It injects a renewed sense of adventure into the experience of being human.












language, while sites further out are corre­ ing of brain-damage effects and their distribution? The key to interpreting lated with higher-level linguistic and cognitive functions. This is consistent these differences is that electrical stimulation is something added, whereas damage is something removed. Though cortical areas just next to a stimu­ lation site might not be directly affected by the stimulation, areas some dis­ tance away may be, so noise from many sites may be able to feed into

subject to selection for any significant vocal muscles. All else can be ignored for the sake of word analysiS (though period of time. Fomth, they suggest that the preCision and speed of many other slower-paced prosodic cues are Simultaneously present), including size aspects of vocal articulation were in continual development during most of of vocal tract, rate of speech, failure to achieve intended acoustic targets, human evolution, probably reflected in relative brain size. and so on.

female has sufficient information to de­ to care for offspring, its energy can be redirected to maximizing copulatory termine that a male has been the most successful defender of a territory or access to the opposite sex by competing for optimal feeding territories or a group of females (something that may be implicit in the social context), then little else about his state may require cautious interpretation. There will be little selection pressure for females to develop special means of

they provide a perennial topiC for cocktail party dis­ cussions. What's worse, assumptions about the nature of language and the differences between nonhuman and human minds are implicit in almost every philosophical and scientific theory concerned with cognition, knowl­ edge, or human social behavior. It is truly a multidisciplinary problem that defies analysis from any one perspective alone, and where the breadth of technical topics that must be mastered exceeds even the most erudite schol­ ars'

to produce a given set of behaviors as a result of an incre­ mental and indirect selection of certain minimal design elements. Trained neural networks exhibit remarkable pattern recognition abilities, something that is difficult to program digital computers to do using top­ usual sorts of large, fast digital computers. It is the "virtual architecture" of down approaches with step-by-step instructions for analysis . Networks trained to "cateE0rize" one set of stimuli (i.e., respond Similarly to

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